Team Effort: Helping to Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Communications Network
While we’ve all seen news coverage of the havoc Hurricane Maria has wreaked across Puerto Rico, the news stories really can’t accurately depict the damage and devastation it has caused. A majority of the island is still without water and power, and it will likely take months and even years to rebuild and get the economy on track.
The island’s critical communications infrastructure has been severely damaged, hampering relief efforts and leaving the hurricane victims in a precarious position, unable to communicate with their families, the outside world or ask for help.
I recently went to Puerto Rico with members of the GENBAND Emergency Recovery, Engineering and Sales teams to help our customer Claro, the island’s largest telecommunications provider, restore their network, and saw the devastating impact that the hurricane has had firsthand. It really is unbelievable.
From left to right: Reynaldo Orpinel, Patrick Joggerst, Greg Ogle, Dean Gilbert, Rodney Neese, Felipe Gonzalez and Paul Loots.
I especially wanted to single out Felipe Gonzalez, Dean Gilbert, Rodney Neese, Greg Ogle and Paul Loots for their outstanding efforts. Many volunteered to go down to the island immediately following the hurricane and have been there for weeks, working on repairing damaged equipment and communications sites.
I thought it was important to share some of the stories I have heard from the team and let you hear their perspectives on what they have witnessed in Puerto Rico over the last several weeks.
Paul Loots, Solutions Integration Engineer said, “I was already working in Puerto Rico on the deployment of a new C20 switch for a customer, but had to leave before the hurricane approached. After a week of trying to come back to the island after the storm, because of one cancelled flight after another, I arrived on October 2nd and have been working all day every day since. Even with all of the destruction of the infrastructure staring everyone in the face, every day the local people we work with each day are so positive and hopeful that things will not only recover, but eventually improve. The country is flooded with emergency military personnel and various federal agencies. It is not uncommon to share a hotel elevator with armed military personnel. I have spent over 17 years working in Puerto Rico and am a big fan of the island and the local residents – so it’s great to help out in this time of crisis.”
Felipe Gonzalez Regional Director for CALA said, “I am responsible for all of the Spanish Caribbean and Central American region and was asked by Claro’s CTO to provide immediate onsite support after the hurricane. I have been working non-stop alongside the Claro and GENBAND teams since I arrived on the island September 28th. Maria really reminds us how fragile we all are, but for me personally the most memorable part of this experience was when we were able to restore service to San Jorge Children’s Hospital. I am so thankful to other GENBAND team members including Richard Jennings and Hector Mauricio Murguia Rodriguez for all of their hard work and for our corporate office for providing cell phone batteries that are being used by many people in need including Claro technicians. This has been something I will never forget. Last week we met with Claro’s CEO and he expressed how grateful he was for all of the support we were providing. It really exemplified the strength of our partnership. In addition to Claro we are also working with other customers on the island including Liberty Media, Data Access and Telefonica amongst other tier one US carriers to help get their communications networks back up and running.”
The entire team has done an exceptional job and many others who are not mentioned above have also played critical roles in this effort. While it was impossible to include everyone here, I want to thank everyone for their tremendous dedication. It is times like these that really show the importance of what we do and as someone who spent his early years in Puerto Rico, I am truly grateful for everyone’s dedication and commitment to helping rebuild the island’s communications network. Gracias a todos.