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Cox Crews Pitch In After Hurricane Ivan

10/03/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

Cox Communications Inc. sent in the cavalry — support crews from 10 unaffected systems — to help its Gulf Coast operation cope with the effects of Hurricane Ivan after its landfall Sept. 16.

Ivan hit the Florida panhandle with 130-mile-per-hour winds — the worst weather event to ever hit the Pensacola region, according to local press reports.

Operators throughout Florida have learned hurricane coping skills throughout this season, and Cox was among those most affected by Ivan. It lost 14 miles of plant in Fort Walton Beach and 65.5 miles of fiber and 122 miles of coaxial cable in and around Pensacola, according to local officials.

20 HOMES DAMAGED

Though all of its employees survived the devastation, 20 workers lost homes or suffered damage severe enough to make their houses uninhabitable.

“Each employee has made sacrifices for our customers and other employees,” said Cox Gulf Coast vice president and general manager Keith Gregory.

“I have witnessed countless acts of selflessness and kindness. Observing their efforts, in spite of their personal situations, has been an inspiration to me.”

Cox put its hurricane contingency plans in force, with management breaking into teams to deal with issues such as acquiring child care because schools were unable to open; providing emergency food; and obtaining shelter and lodging for out-of-town crews.

A four-man team of executives that normally work in marketing, finance, human resources and information systems volunteered to make repairs on customer-service representatives’ homes.

Cox Media arranged for field service workers to eat at restaurants that had survived the hurricane.

Though the damage is extensive, 80% of the plant was operational by the end of last week. About 1,000 Cox employees are working on restoration, and the stakes are high: the public-affairs department created a radio spot within two days of the storm, pledging complete service restoration by Oct. 15.

MEDIACOM HIT

Mediacom Communications Corp. also withstood the strain of Ivan, including the region’s relatively new 52,000-square-foot call center just outside Gulf Breeze, Fla., on the panhandle.

As the storm bore down, the company asked CSRs for volunteers to go to other call centers to work until the storm passed and 60 workers agreed to leave their families, according to Mike Smith, regional vice president of operations for the Florida region. The building came through the storm and was back in full operation Sept. 25, he added. Crews were in the field the moment the storm passed to repair plant, even though communications and supplies were problematic.

“Access to a telephone was a real challenge. We never resorted to tin cans and string, but we definitely thought outside the box,” he said.

The regional Gulf Coast Network has been dedicated to continuous hurricane recovery updates, including a lost-and-found segment to help locals regain pets and personal property redistributed by the wind.

Wi-fi access points have been established in community centers to help local residents stay in touch.

Due to the hard work of employees, Smith said, the systems were fully operational by Oct. 1.

September