Natural disasters are a way of life for a telecom company like TDS. For years our Technical Service Teams, Network Engineers and other responders have been working through crisis events to restore services to customers after Mother Nature unleashes her familiar rath.

This week it was Hurricane Sandy that had our attention – and as far as natural disasters go, I prefer hurricanes– at least they give us time to plan ahead, unlike tornados.

Our Network Operations Center (NOC) team is located in Madison, Wis., this a group of people who monitor the network, the weather, and our resources 24/7. When news of Hurricane Sandy first hit the NOC immediately alerted our Field Services teams in the path and asked them to prepare for the worst.

While customers are out gathering water, boarding up homes, and packing up their belongings to evacuate TDS is busy preparing too.

Here’s a partial list:
• Double check central office batteries
• Inspect and test generators
• Top off fuel tanks and confirm our fuel supply vendor
• Check for needed repair supplies and confirm sources of suppliers should we need them.
• Make a few calls to emergency contacts and local officials to confirm a line of communication.
• Call contractors to make sure we are “first on their list” for extra help.
• Make time for our employees prepare their own families and get to safe locations,so our Techs can work after the storm and be on call knowing their own families are safe.
• Send out a few customer messages to remind people how to use their landline phone in a power outage and encourage computer file back-ups.

Once the storm hits, we gather via teleconference for the first update then gather frequently after that to support any impacted areas – we share status and work from all areas of the country to get resources to impacted areas quickly.

In the many years that I’ve been part of this response for TDS (and it a lot), I’ve always enjoyed the fact that the first question asked on our teleconference is: “Is everyone there ok ?”

At TDS our first priority is the safety of our employees and their families. It makes me proud to work here. When Katrina hit, our employees stocked a semi-truck full of supplies and had it on the road headed for our local families in Mississippi within 24 hours. It was amazing to see everyone respond overnight to the needs of our fellow employees and their extended community. You could tell we were all thinking the same thing…”If it were me, I’d want someone to help me.”

Thankfully, TDS and our employees fared well during Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy – we are in a lot better shape than our last major crisis when our central office in Tellico Plains, Tenn. took a direct hit from a tornado. That time our techs had to jump “Twister” style into a deep, oil changing pit in the warehouse. Whew! Now, that was a close one! We were very thankful to hear, “Yeah we’re all ok down here. A bit shaken up but we’re ok,” at the first call on that terrible day.

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