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How Tulsa's Verizon operation center keeps cell service accessible after storms

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Posted at 5:16 PM, Jun 27, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — Verizon’s Network Operation Center for all of Oklahoma is located in Tulsa.

It’s where all of the data people use for web browsing, texting, and phone calls is processed before it is sent out.

"We all rely on our mobile telephones and I think that that’s important," said Zack Lusk, a senior engineer for the company. "I didn’t have power yesterday due to a different event, but my phone worked, so I was able to monitor when I would get power back.”

With backup generators and batteries, staff at the Tulsa facility are always on guard for a loss of service. They even have a backup facility somewhere in Tennessee in case of a mass outage in the state.

Chris Ross, a Verizon Field Assurance Engineer, showed 2 News the inside one of the portable cell units they deploy in emergency situations. They used some in Barnsdall after a tornado hit at the beginning of May.

WATCH: 2 News extensively covered the recovery efforts in Barnsdall:

1 Month since Barnsdall Tornado

"This could probably broadcast about a three-mile range," said Ross. "When there’s a disaster or something, people need to use their cell phones, so that’s what we're here for, provide emergency communication when something bad happens.”

While some of the trucks are meant to provide temporary relief, they have been used before for a year at a time.

“If we lose a cell site out in the field somewhere, say due to a tornado, of course in Oklahoma we get those or an ice storm, we can pull this on site to replace that tower or cell site while it’s being prepared," said Ross.

When Tulsans think of mass outages, Father's Day of 2023 likely comes to mind.

Associate Director of Network Operations Paul Hughes took 2 News' Stef Manchen back to that time and explained how consistently maintaining their equipment saves everyone unnecessary headaches.

“Over 95% of our sites lost power," said Hughes. "We did have them powered up by either permanent generators or temporary assets, and we were 100% restored in 48 hours or less.”

Keeping equipment ready also means making sure their facility is regularly updated, so it can stay up with tech trends like switching from 4G to 5G.

"We have to have a facility where we can bring in the new stuff, and that way, the old stuff can be removed, and the new stuff comes into play," said Ram Nandiraju, Verizon's Associate Director of Network Performance."This is in preparation for any future advancements in technology, so we make sure the facility is ready for it when the hardware is ready for us.”

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