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Bracing for the Next Superstorm

Major storms such as the blizzard that hammered New England earlier this month pose big logistical issues for cable operators. In this edited excerpt from the FCC’s Superstorm Sandy field hearing in New York on Feb. 5, Time Warner Cable group vice president and chief security officer Brian Allen spoke of lessons the MSO learned.

Cable operators are not always recognized as providers of essential services. But we were able to provide critical communications services during one of the most challenging episodes in the [New York City] region’s history.

First, fuel logistics proved to be very significant. A significant number of our employees could not get fuel for their own personal vehicles and there- fore had difficulty getting to work. We brought in fuel from Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio, among other locations. … As a result of our robust post-mortem efforts, we are currently working on enhancing our current strategic fuel plan, to include bulk fuel reserves, distribution, and enhanced logistical support.

A second challenge that we faced related to access issues. The storm resulted in numerous bridge closures and police roadblocks. The storm also forced many of our employees to use non-company and non-placarded vehicles. These issues impeded our ability to get our technicians to service locations to provide repairs. The panel should consider methods of improving access by technicians to communications facilities that need repair.

Third, we faced security challenges. During such a sustained period of damage and loss of power, we faced a number of security issues, such as stolen generators, and people stalking our fuel trucks and interrupting deliveries. We had to exercise caution in numerous instances to ensure the safety of our employees. The panel should work with the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to improve communications between police and service providers to en- sure the safety of employees that are working to return vital services to the affected communities.