AT&T Tech Channel

About this video

This film is the second part (see part 1) of a 2-part film on Western Electric's ability to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. It starts with footage from the 1975 Hurricane Caroline in Texas, showing scenes of damage and recovery, and rallying by Western Electric's repair crews. The thrust of the film (and it includes footage from 1975's Miracle on 2nd Avenue, which, until 9/11, took out more phones than any other disaster in the history of the Bell System) revolves around the way supplies and personnel are mobilized to respond to disasters, no matter how large or small.

The telephone company has responded to hurricanes around the coastlines of America since the Gale of 1878, which knocked over telegraph and telephone lines on the Eastern Seaboard.

The worst hurricane that was well-documented within the Bell System is the 1938 East Coast hurricane. In that, more than 20,000 miles of telephone lines and poles were knocked down, and in the affected states, approximately 30% of all telephone customers lost service. The Bell System published not one but two small books about the effort, The Bell System Meets Its Greatest Test and The Bell System Fights a Hurricane! It was probably the first major test of the national company's capability, drawing 2300 workers and equipment from all over the country. Crews came to the Northeast from Nevada, Arkansas, Virginia, and many Midwestern states. Repairs required 31,000 new poles and 74 million feet of cable and wire supplied by Western Electric.

Since that time, company recovery efforts have gotten larger and faster, with a major test in Hurricane Betsy in 1965. AT&T in 2012 maintains an NDR, or Network Disaster Recovery team, who have responded to Atlantic and Gulf Coast hurricanes, among other calamities, and in 2012 to Hurricane Sandy.

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

Release date: 11/14/2012

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