Don Train wasn’t going to complain. He understood that no matter how hard his crews were working to get public safety towers on line and stay on line, the first responders were working harder.
His company, Train’s Towers, has been working to repair public safety, utility and broadcasting towers damaged by Superstorm Sandy in an area of 50 mile radius around Philadelphia, which includes a broad swath of New Jersey . His customers include the New Jersey State Police.
Calls are coming in every day for repairs, but he has to prioritize his response. Public safety is first, utilities second and the broadcasters third. With the power down and widespread looting reported in Atlantic City, state troopers had blocked off the Atlantic City Expressway. In order to work on a roof site in the city on Thursday, Train had to have a police escort.
“Without the police you have no order, without power you have no communications, without radio and TV, you have no information getting to the public,” Train said.
The majority of the damage Train is seeing in the field is from wind pressure from the storm that knocked microwave dishes out of alignment. Additionally, Train’s crews are busy replenishing diesel generators and troubleshooting tower lighting. He had work on three 1,000-foot towers on the scheduled for Friday.
“There are a few towers that folded over and went down, but they lighter communications towers,” Train said. “I haven’t seen bad devastation, so far, but it is only Thursday.”
When Bryan Lee, of Lee Antenna & Line Service, spoke to AGL Bulletin, he was in the field near Bethlehem, Penn., delivering diesel to cell site generators. Lee’s company is working primarily for T-Mobile maintaining generators and for Telecom Transport Management repairing microwave links.
“It is a hard push,” A lot of the repairs right now deal with using generators to get power back up on the sites and getting the telco lines to the sites back up. So we end up doing a bunch of work on microwave dishes that got blown off path.”
In the campaign to get cellular systems back on the air, one day can run into the next. One night, Lee’s crew completed work on a microwave link at 6 a.m., checked into a hotel, slept until 1 p.m. and began work on another link. That day ended at 10 p.m.
Even so, Lee said that he doesn’t allow the urgency of repairing communications sites take precedence over making sure that the crews are getting enough downtime to work safely.
“You make sure you get your sleep,” Lee said. “One of the keys things we worry about is keeping the crews rested. The sites need to be repaired, but if you are pushing your crews too hard that is when accidents happen.”
Lee, himself was taking a day away from microwave work on Friday after working on towers two days in a row. Instead, he was spending the day driving from site to site, bringing fuel to generators.
“We rotate the work around so that everyone is not doing the grueling work every day. Climbing towers and microwave work can really wear you out,” Lee said.