AT&T provides free texting, calling for those affected by Irma

MIAMI (WSVN) - Being able to communicate with loved ones during and after storms like Hurricane Irma may be difficult, and local cell phone companies said they are stepping up to the task.

It’s easy to take for granted our cell phones and service, especially in the wake of a storm. Many lose power and cell phone service, but AT&T said they are making things easier for people who were in Irma’s path.

“We know there is never a more critical time for people to be able to stay connected,” said AT&T spokesperson Kelly Starling.

AT&T has offered free calls and text messaging for those without a way to communicate with loved ones.

An AT&T customer and tourist from California was visiting St. Maarten when Irma made landfall. Now, he’s focused on getting back home and helping locals.

“I’m trying to give people my phone to call their loved ones,” said the unnamed tourist.

AT&T has suggested keeping phones charged and dry. “Portable devices allow you to charge multiple devices at one time or even something like a car charger,” said Starling.

She added to make sure you have all your emergency information programed on your phone. “That includes your local police department, the fire station, hospitals,” said Starling.

AT&T said they were not just prepared for everything during Irma, but they were also ready for post-Irma activity.

Emergency response equipment and teams have been staged and ready for cell phone towers that may be down.

A statement on AT&T’s website states its National Reliability Center is monitoring outages for quick action while testing high-capacity back-up batteries at cell sites and protecting physical facilities against flooding.

“How long those back-up batteries last depends on how much network traffic the cell site handles,” said Starling. “In addition to those high-capacity batteries, we also have generators in our cell site in our hurricane cone area. Those will kick in if the batteries die.”

AT&T said they expect a high call volume and to try keeping non-emergency calls to a minimum. Remember, text messaging might be an easier and faster option to let someone know you are OK, AT&T added.

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