TORRANCE, CA – When major storms and other natural disasters strike, many companies have to spring into action to restore service to their customers. AT&T is no different, and the company told Automotive Fleet about how its fleet was able to overcome a range of obstacles in the wake of super storm Sandy in the northeastern U.S.

AT&T said the key challenges it faced included the loss of commercial power, limited access to retail fueling, and the inability to dispatch service vehicles due to flooding, debris, and road closures in some areas. The company said it was able to deal with these challenges because it had an emergency plan in place.

“AT&T conducts readiness drills and simulations throughout the year to ensure our networks are prepared and our personnel are ready to respond at a moment's notice,” said a company spokesperson. “Due to the planning and execution on the front end, we were well prepared to respond to these challenges, including having generators staged for deployment and fuel supplies lined up to keep our fleet rolling. These were all critical factors in our ability to relatively in short order get to a level of having 99 percent of our cell sites up and running across the impacted region.”

One method the company used to ensure its vehicles had fuel was to secure and deploy 80 fuel trucks to bring in fuel supplies from outside the storm-hit region. AT&T used the fuel to keep its vehicles and generators going. The company also deployed more than 3,000 generators throughout the northeast to bring power to its cell sites, central offices, and other facilities.

One unique challenge that AT&T said it faced was fueling its compressed natural gas-fueled vehicles. The company operates 244 CNG service vehicles in Connecticut, and the company had to implement its emergency CNG fueling plan to ensure these vehicles could continue to operate.

“This emergency plan included the deployment of two Gas Transport Modules (GTMs), each containing 900 gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) of CNG,” the spokesperson said. “We quickly had the GTM's in service following the storm making landfall, and kept them up until power was restored at the impacted retail fueling stations.”

Beyond ensuring its drivers were able to fuel up company fleet vehicles, AT&T also made fuel available to its employees for purchase in hard-hit areas of New York and New Jersey as many employees crucial to service restoration efforts needed fuel to get to and from work.

“The initiative is designed to help relieve some of the hardships for our employees and is just one of a number of efforts underway to assist those performing jobs ranging from taking service calls or helping customers get their phones charged in our retail stores, to working on restoration of the network,” the spokesperson said.

By Nov. 15, the company said its operations were back to normal in the region.

“By executing on our well-rehearsed emergency plans before the storm actually hit, we were as prepared as possible to deal with two of the top issues from a storm for our fleet, which are fuel supply and power supply,” the spokesperson said.

By Greg Basich