California wildfire pushes TDS techs into action

Anderson fireThree days after wildfires around TDS’ service area in Happy Valley, Calif. were extinguished, TDS’ Senior Network Specialist Tom Johnston, found a man wandering and in need of a helping hand. Tom had been checking to see which homes in the area had working phone and Internet service when he came upon this gentleman.

The man was, for the most part, just fine. However, he was hungry and thirsty since he didn’t have access to food or water. He lived on a dead-end road and had stayed on even after neighbors had been evacuated. Having remembered passing an American Red Cross booth along the way, Johnston went back to get some food and water for him.

In early-September, wildfires broke out in Northern California destroying about 30 homes and forcing about 600 people to evacuate. Known as the Clover Fire, it broke out near Happy Valley in Shasta County and burned about 8,000 acres. At one point, flames were reported spreading at 500 acres an hour.

Today, things are getting back to normal. In our serving area of about 160 square miles, nearly all of the 600 homes that initially lost phone and Internet service are up and running again. In fact, a majority of the residents never even knew their services were out.

TDS was among the first utility companies allowed back into the fire ravaged areas. Randy Brunes, a Field Services manager for TDS said, “As soon as we could enter the area, our team went in looking to see if people needed help. It looked like a war zone with all the smoldering, ash and rubble.”

The power company, which had about 200 poles burn down in the fire, needed TDS to perform emergency locates before they could put up new poles. To do this, Johnston along with TDS Network Specialists’ Scott Sandifer and Ryan Tallerino, hooked onto the accessible buried cable and then applied orange paint so the power company could avoid cutting them when setting new poles. In many cases, the technicians needed to strip back melted sections just to find the cabling.

While they did the emergency locates, which was an important step to keep TDS’ buried facilities safe and service uninterrupted, the technicians also checked every home in the area. Their goal was simple: to ensure phone and Internet service was working.

According to Johnston, equipment restoration will continue throughout the winter. “We need to dig up some cable, move some pedestals and we may need to put in some new cable to extend the lines that were burnt and melted. But, this work does not impact customers–it’s non-service effecting.”

“I’m so proud of our technicians,” said Bob Perkins regional manager of Field Services. “Each and every day they go out into the community and, as they would say, ‘just do their job.’ It has been, and continues to be, their extraordinary efforts when duty calls that creates an amazing sense of pride among this group each and every day.”

About Cindy Tomlinson

Cindy Tomlinson is the Associate Manager of Public Relations at TDS Telecom. She has a solid foundation in corporate public relations, social media, and reputation management. In order to generate news, Cindy has immersed herself in the technology. For the last eight years, Cindy has been generating positive awareness for TDS and the company’s products, services, employees, and involvement in the community in hundreds of local, state, national, and industry publications. She has a keen understanding of hosted, managed, and cloud services, VoIP, broadband, and telephony. With 20 years of Public Relations experience in a variety of settings (non-profit, agency and corporate) Cindy is quick to take on projects, learn about new technology, and seek opportunities to put the company in the spotlight. She is a graduate of UW-Stevens Point and can be found on Google+ and LinkedIn.
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