Carriers respond to service disruptions in wake of Oklahoma tornado

In the wake of a deadly tornado that tore through Oklahoma City and its suburbs Monday, wireless carriers are responding to aid the victims and restore service. Dozens were killed and scores more were injured as a result of the tornado. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) said in a statement that it is coordinating with local authorities and bringing in additional resources. The carrier recommends people send text messages given heavy call volumes. AT&T also said it is waiving voice, data and text overage charges through June 30 for customers in the affected areas.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) spokesman Tom Pica told FierceWireless that the Verizon Wireless network is operating at almost 100 percent capacity after the tornadoes, and that the network experienced extremely high call volumes as the storm moved in. He said cells on wheels and cells on light trucks are being deployed to expand capacity and support relief efforts, as soon as it is safe to enter the impacted areas. Pica also said Verizon is working quickly to deploy a number of disaster relief vehicles to the community of Moore, Okla., and surrounding areas to set up Wireless Emergency Centers (WECs) to support first responders and families with charging stations, emergency phones for use on site, internet capability and even drinking water. The company also providing relief for customers impacted by tornadoes in Oklahoma with overages for voice, data or text usage not covered in their plans. Verizon has also committed $100,000 in grants to disaster relief in the area, and the Verizon Foundation will provide a 1-to-1 match of employee online donations (from $25 up to $1,000 per employee) to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) spokeswoman Crystal Davis told FierceWireless that Sprint is proactively waiving overage charges for voice, text and data for Sprint services between now and June 30 and is offering discounted chargers for the residents affected. Additionally, to assist first responders, public safety officials and emergency medical personnel in Moore, the Sprint Emergency Response Team is deploying staff, hundreds of mobile devices, Satellite Cell on light trucks for interoperable wireless voice and IP data communications.

A T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) said that a small cluster of cell sites was damaged but the company's network is more than 97 percent operational in the affected area. T-Mobile engineers are moving equipment into the area, including Cell-on-Wheels (COWs) and other solutions. In addition, the company's customers can support the Red Cross relief efforts by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. The donation will be charged on their T-Mobile bill.

Story was updated on May 21 to include information from T-Mobile US regarding its network.

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