Chicago businesses go into action for Sandy
BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporteremail@example.com October 29, 2012 6:18PM
Chicagoan Lorenzo James takes a walk along the lakefront to watch the Lake Michigan waves pound the lake wall late Monday afternoon on October 29, 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:21PM
Local companies are on high alert with emergency command centers and crisis teams operating 24/7 to respond to Hurricane Sandy’s havoc.
Motorola Solutions, the Schaumburg-based provider of walkie-talkies and communications gear to police and fire departments, has deployed technicians to major East Coast cities to help keep the emergency operations working, said spokesman Steve Gorecki.
The company’s customers include some of the forecasted hardest-hit areas. Motorola Solutions sells and maintains statewide communications systems in South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, and municipal systems in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Motorola Solutions also is monitoring the hurricane from its Schaumburg communications center, where it can see an antenna knockdown or other emergency and notify the customer so repairs can start quickly, Gorecki said.
The company also has deployed fuel trucks for emergency generators and sent hundreds of portable radios and radio batteries to police agencies for backup.
Motorola is ready to set up Sites on Wheels if needed. The sites are loaded with a radio system antenna, portable radios and back-up communications systems.
“They are like trailers with antenna sites inside,” Gorecki said.
Sears is keeping an eye on the storm from its command center in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates, which along with a 45-member crisis team, keep tabs of store closings and emergency needs.
The command center is armed with weather-channel TV monitors, a map dotted with pins denoting Sears and Kmart store closings and computer banks manned by experts in logistics, transportation and technology.
The retailer has closed 115 stores so far and expects many more to be shuttered before the storm ends, said spokesman Chris Brathwaite.
Each Sears and Kmart store has its own “hurricane checklist” to ensure it has enough items such as sandbags and board-up material, he said.
“We have positioned trailers in areas near stores in the projected path of the hurricane, which we will use to move merchandise, and we’ve established a hotline for store associates so they can receive updates on their store’s status,” Brathwaite said.
Emergency response teams also are poised to travel to hard-hit areas if needed, he said.
Commonwealth Edison sent crews this past weekend to help its sister utilities, PECO in Philadelphia and Baltimore Gas & Electric, both in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy.
Ace Hardware has increased its warehouse inventory of items expected to be in demand such as batteries, generators, flashlights and cleaning supplies, and is ready to deploy them when needed, said the Oak Brook-based co-operative’s spokeswoman, Lauren Platt.
AT&T has set up 320 technology and equipment trailers to deploy, and uses a network disaster recovery team ready to respond.
“AT&T conducts readiness drills and simulations throughout the year” to ensure it can respond, the carrier said.
It also adds capacity to its wireless network, tops off generators at cell sites, installs back-up batteries at cell sites and stages extra generators and fuel tankers at high-risk areas.
The operator of a downtown Chicago data center said it’s unlikely one of the fortresses that house critical Internet connections and computer systems would go down, given their backup systems and experience dealing with emergencies.
Christopher Jensen, principal at Digital Capital Partners, LLC, which operates a data center at 725 S. Wells, said if the worst happens, data centers can offload some of their capacity onto backup sites away from the storm.