MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Anyone who’s been through a hurricane knows getting communications service up and running is a crucial element during the aftermath. AT&T Florida recently won federal approval a new command center in South Florida to deal with such a situation.

The new command center is part of a national program approved by Congress after the September 11th terrorist attacks to encourage private companies to improve disaster planning. AT&T’s command center was the first company in the country to be certified by the Department of Homeland Security.

AT&T’s Florida President, Marshall Criser, took CBSMiami on an inside look at its command center including its latest back-up technology to keep it’s phones and data lines running in the worst conditions possible.

“We basically are taking our teams who respond to these types of events whether it’s a weather event or some other event and we go out in the local community and we drill and we make sure the equiptment works the way we expect it to work,” Criser said. “We make sure our people are comfortable with what they are supposed to do. It’s planning, it’s preparation, and then you practice and you get ready.”

Most local AT&T customers CBSMiami spoke with like the idea of improved emergency planning. But some still remember AT&T’s dead cell phones and poor service during South Floridas’ active hurricane seasons several years ago.

“You never know how many people are going to use the cell phone towers or if they’ll have enough capacity. In the past, it hasn’t worked out,” according to Hollywood AT&T Customer Elliot Satz.

Coral Gables’ Rick Danger agreed, adding, “They’ve done a lot to improve their infrastructure, but we’ll just have to wait to see.”

AT&T said it’s spent about $2.8 billion dollars strengthening its telecommunications system in South Florida to be better prepared for bad weather. But will it be enough to keep the all the regions’ cell phones, laptops, and iPads working the next time a strong storm targets South Florida?

That’s the $64,000 question as hurricane season begins June 1.


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