A near-historic blizzard was making its way toward the Northeast on Friday, potentially dumping 18-to-24 inches or more of snow on major metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia and up to a foot in New York City, forcing cable operators to batten down the hatches in preparation for possible service outages.
According to the Weather Channel’s Weather.com web site – which has already dubbed the meteorological event “Winter Storm Jonas” – the scope of the storm is huge with about 20 states from Arkansas to New York City either under a blizzard warning, winter storm watch, winter storm warning, winter weather advisory, or freezing rain advisory.
The brunt of the storm appears to be headed for Comcast service territory – which includes Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and parts of New Jersey – and the cable operator is taking the necessary precautions. Comcast has been working since early this week in preparation for the blast, including:
* Increasing staffing and strategically placing employees in key locations throughout its footprint
* Preparing and topping off back-up generators and other supplies
* Ensuring full gas tanks in its fleet and overall preparedness for difficult weather
* Coordinating closely with power companies and local and state emergency workers
In addition, in the regions expected to be hardest hit Comcast will open up its WiFi network starting Friday afternoon, allowing anyone to access its WiFi hotspots. In Philadelphia, the operator has partnered with local broadcast station NBC10 to promote the ability to “Plug In & Power Up” at local Xfinity Stores across the Philadelphia region. Comcast also is reaching out to customers in the most impacted areas to let them know what to expect, how to stay safe and how to check on the status of their services in the event of an outage.
The cable operator also has a dedicated website for the storm – www.xfinity.com/winterstorm -- that gives out information on what to do in the event of a disruption in service. Customers also cab check for outage updates by visiting My Account on www.comcast.com from any secure Internet-enable mobile device or computer.
Other operators are taking similar actions, including Time Warner Cable – which has a major presence in New York – and Cablevision Systems, which has customers in the Bronx, Queens and Long Island.
Time Warner Cable has also been making preparations all week for the storm, especially in its North Carolina region, which is facing heavy snow and ice conditions.
The cable operator said it has taken many of its customary pre-storm precautions in terms of staffing and materials planning, generator prep and appointment scheduling. In North Carolina TWC is rescheduling afternoon and evening appointments because of unsafe driving conditions and closing its retail locations in the Charlotte, Triangle and Greensboro markets for the day as of noon. The operator also has a web link for storm info:.
In preparation for the storm, Cablevision has ensured its contact centers staffed and operational, its field service technicians are set for deployment and that it has back-up power at all head-ends and data centers, including generators prepared throughout the service area.
For customers, the company has sent out storm preparation e-mails and has a dedicated storm page on its web portal.
Cablevision’s Optimum WiFi network also is available to customers providing wireless internet access should they experience a loss of power due to the storm and customers can also access the Optimum Support App for tips and FAQs. As always, the operator has 24/7 local customer service available via phone, e-mail, chat and social media (Twitter) to assist with customer needs.
But like most winter weather events, the bulk of service outages will likely be caused by power outages, which are out of cable operators’ control. Still, Comcast customers with wireline phone service with a battery backup can use their home phones for up to eight hours in the event of a power outage. With the XFinity Connect mobile app, customers can also make calls from their home phone number via a smartphone or tablet if the power is out.
To prepare for possible power outages, customers in the affected areas should:
* Charge all cellphone, smartphones, tablets, laptops and juice packs;
* If you aren’t expecting any calls and don’t need immediate Internet access, leave smartphones on Airplane mode, which will prolong battery life;
* Keep flashlights handy and check for fresh batteries and have a battery-operated radio on hand for emergency broadcasts;
* Make sure you have plenty of fresh water and non-perishable food for a prolonged power outage – the rule of thumb is three quarts of water per person per day;
* Stay indoors and off the roads, abide by all special rules put in place by authorities during the storm period;
* Refill prescriptions so you don’t run out;
* Break out the board games and non-electronic entertainment; keep video streaming on cell-phones to a minimum during power outages in case the device is needed for emergencies.