Katrina Underscored Importance of 4G LTE Connectivity During Emergencies

Hurricane Season

10 Years Ago, Devastating Natural Disasters and Reliable Cellular Connectivity Converged at Critical Time

When natural disasters strike — and they do, in various forms, all year long — every person and group views the devastation through a different lens. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed huge swaths of the Gulf Coast 10 years ago, Cradlepoint had a unique lens: we were asked to help keep companies and communities connected at a time when communication was essential.

Flooding had almost immediately rendered wired broadband lines useless, so one of the largest insurance firms in the country presented us with a unique challenge: provide thousands of insurance field agents with cellular connectivity so they could file claims in real time, wherever and whenever they were needed.

“It was a wakeup call for the insurance company. While its customers needed support more than ever, the company didn’t have the necessary connectivity to help. The same thing can happen to any business during any disaster,” said David Rush, senior product manager at Cradlepoint.

  Cradlepoint tackled this task with immediacy and vigor, knowing how many people and businesses affected by the storm were counting on these insurance claims. Less than a month after Katrina made landfall, Hurricane Rita surged the Gulf Coast worsening conditions and creating further chaos. Cradlepoint’s 4G LTE platforms are ideal solutions for storm-ravaged cities, like those in the Gulf Coast, because wireless service providers use portable towers to restore service quickly. Conversely, wired networks usually take weeks or months to restore after a natural disaster. When the additional threats can be just around the corner, deployment times can be critical.

“We sold the company 17,000 platforms for backup and primary Internet connectivity in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and we haven’t slowed down since,” Rush said. “It opened our eyes to the many ways we could contribute to the well-being of communities and the companies that serve them.”

Our work in the Gulf Coast foreshadowed the world we live in 10 years later, a world in which network downtime halts virtually all day-to-day operations within most companies.

It’s not just hurricanes that curb connectivity. Natural disasters strike all year long, from one coast of the U.S. to the other, including earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, floods, blizzards, avalanches, ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and more. September is National Preparedness Month for good reason: In case of emergency, being prepared is one of the only factors within our power.

For families, preparedness centers on items such as clean drinking water, generators, and nonperishable food. For businesses, reliable network connectivity is the bottom line.

Cellular providers aren’t immune to challenges during emergency situations, as problems such as destruction of towers, loss of power and rapid increases in cellular traffic often arise. However, providers are well prepared to address those obstacles quickly and efficiently:

  • COWs (Cell on Wheels): Mobile cell sites with antenna and equipment to provide wireless coverage or boost capacity.
  • COLTs (Cell on Light Trucks): Mobile cell sites, attached to a truck or other large vehicle, with antenna and equipment to extend wireless coverage or boost capacity.
  • GOATs (Generator on a Trailer): Mobile electrical generators, often attached to trailers or trucks, deployed to provide electrical power.
  • Geo-redundant disaster recovery centers: Monitor cell traffic and reroute and load-balance cell traffic when the number of cell calls into and out of an area surges.
    SOURCE: CTIA-The Wireless Association®

We’d rather never see another natural disaster, but if and when one does occur, Cradlepoint will be ready to help support wireless service providers and businesses with the 4G LTE solutions to keep our communities safe and happy.

Learn more about Cradlepoint’s networking solutions at cradlepoint.com