To Mike Muniz, an area manager for AT&T’s network disaster recovery team, witnessing the aftermath of Hurricane Michael was like entering a war zone.
On Oct. 10, 2018, two days after forming over the Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle. The most powerful hurricane to hit the US since Andrew in 1992, the Category 5 Michael killed 45 people, left 700,000 residents across Florida, Georgia and Alabama without power and caused $25 billion in damage.
Muniz arrived in Mexico Beach, Florida, a couple days later to help restore the area’s cell service, which the storm had wiped out.
“I look back, I think it was worse than Puerto Rico [after Hurricane Maria in 2017],” Muniz says. “I remember seeing people just wandering around.”
Following disasters that topple cellphone towers or knock entire networks offline, wireless providers need to be on top of their game when repairing them, especially as more Americans ditch landlines completely for their smartphones. Beyond providing a vital way for survivors to stay connected to loved ones and contact 911, reliable networks are also critical for receiving emergency alerts and staying informed of local conditions and recovery efforts. Likewise, emergency personnel need to plan and coordinate efforts to save lives and rescue people in danger.
While exact times will vary based on each situation, the company plans to have services restored within hours of being mobilized.
However long it takes, Muniz and his colleagues face exhausting work when managing disaster recovery, and they’re likely to be busy in the weeks ahead. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which has broken records with 25 named storms as of early October, won’t officially close until Nov. 30. Hurricane Delta, currently in the Gulf of Mexico,