VA crews work to keep cell phone coverage going ahead of Irma

Updated: Sep. 8, 2017 at 8:31 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Major cell phone carriers are making preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma hitting the United States.

Cell phones and access to social media proved to be life-saving during and after Hurricane Harvey, so companies are stepping up ahead of Irma to create that lifeline.

Verizon is deploying crews in Virginia to stand ready to support employees, customers, government officials, and first responders.

As the forecast becomes clearer, the company will be able to better assess where the impact will be. However, they're not waiting to prepare so they can provide date relief to customers in the hardest hit areas.

Crews are preparing and staging refueling services in Virginia, as well as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina so network facilities can continue to run on generator back up.

The company is also pre-staging replacement and backup equipment for rapid recovery of impacted facilities and bringing in mobile equipment including Cells on Wheels.

AT&T is preparing in a similar fashion by topping off fuel generators, testing back-up batteries at cell sites and protecting physical facilities against flooding.

The company has also staged emergency response equipment in strategic locations, while monitoring outages for quick action.

The AT&T National Disaster Recovery program includes hundreds of technology recovery and support trailers that can be quickly deployed to respond to disasters. NDR supports first responders, allowing them to stay connected during emergencies and operate faster and safer.

AT&T is also offering free calls and texts for customers trying to connect with those impacted by Hurricane Irma.

T-Mobile is also making it free to call and text from the US to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. Roaming fees will be waived until Sept. 15.

"T-Mobile is working closely with charitable organizations to help people affected by the storm get easy access to aid and supplies. T-Mobile also is monitoring other locations that may be affected by the storm and will adjust offerings as needed," states the company's website.

Customers with Spring, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile will also have call, text, and data overage fees waived in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through Sept. 9.

"The country is only beginning to wrestle with recovery efforts from Harvey, and already, residents of Florida and the Caribbean are bracing for another potentially devastating storm in Hurricane Irma," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. "During times like these, the cost of staying connected to friends and loved ones should be the last thing on anyone's mind, and we want to do what we can to support our customers across impacted areas."

Cell phone companies remind you texting is a better method of staying in touch during times of high call volumes, as those messages are more likely to get through.

You can also enable location-based technology to track a relative's wireless device in the event you get separated.

Many people are downloading the Zello App on their smartphones to stay connected. The app turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, which can be useful in an emergency situation. However, it still requires the Internet to function.

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