Lesson 1

By Dennis Mendyk  |  Posted 2003-09-10 Print this article Print

The telecom company's cables were crushed and submerged in water after 7 World Trade Center crashed.

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Lesson 1: It's Good to Have An Army

The World Trade Center events tested Verizon to an extent unimaginable on Sept. 10, 2001. Yet, less than a week after the twin towers fell, Verizon supplied the New York Stock Exchange with enough telecom service to reopen for business.

The damage inflicted by the falling towers caused a complete failure at 140 West—200,000 voice lines, 150,000 business lines, and the equivalent of about 4 million data circuits went out of commission.

The worst damage occurred underground. Verizon inspectors found about 300 of the 500 underground cables that fed into 140 West were damaged or rendered inoperable because of water damage from broken mains at Ground Zero.

The steel beam that crashed through the underground vault cut off a key connection point between 140 West and Verizon's local network. The air compressor system in 140 West that kept those conduits clear was badly damaged. Overtaxed power generators eventually gave out.

Verizon deployed 1,600 technicians to rig up a replacement network. The upper floors of 140 West had to be cleaned up enough to get some of the network equipment running again. Emergency power had to be reestablished. New cables were run out the building's windows and down to the street. Those cables then had to be spliced, wire by wire, to undamaged conduits a few blocks away from the destruction.

But, Verizon also had to keep the aboveground conduits clear. "We built an entirely new air compressor system from scratch," says Joe DeMauro, a Verizon regional president responsible for the outside wiring plant in Lower Manhattan.

All told, about 3,000 field technicians and managers were involved in the restoration work in Lower Manhattan. Few companies could manage to muster that kind of muscle.

In fact, if there were another failure of this magnitude today, Verizon might not have the same muscle. With revenue from domestic telecom operations in decline, Verizon has trimmed its workforce by nearly 15,000, to about 225,000, in the past year. But unions are offering stiff resistance to further cutbacks. In July, an arbitrator ruled that Verizon violated its union contract last December when it laid off some 2,300 technicians and operators in New York.


Dennis Mendyk comes to The Net Economy from Interactive Week, where he served as Telecommunications Editor since July 1998. He was a founding editor of tele.com and has covered the communications and computing industries as an editor and writer since 1984. Mendyk is a past recipient of the Jesse H. Neal Award for editorial excellence.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from New York University and a Master of Arts degree in History from the University of Connecticut.


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