Sears, AT&T, Motorola Solutions, ComEd and other companies from the suburbs are sending emergency help and supplies as a massive storm threatens to cripple East Coast homes, businesses and communication networks.
Officials and business executives have been watching the development of Hurricane Sandy since Wednesday as it has barreled northward from the Caribbean to the Eastern Seaboard. And they've put into action emergency plans to ship extra products, equipment and workers to various sites along the storm's treacherous path.
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Hurricane Sandy is expected to combine with other storms to form a hybrid super storm that could bring high winds, a foot of rain and up to 2 feet of snow to points along the East Coast and well inland. While the extent of the damage that will lie in the storm's wake is still unknown, local companies aren't taking any chances.
Motorola Solutions officials have been monitoring the storm's progress via the command center at the company's Schaumburg headquarters, said Steve Gorecki, company spokesman.
If staff members in Schaumburg discover a downed tower or other problem in a network, they will alert on-site workers to more quickly make the repairs, Gorecki said.
Motorola also is sending a "site on wheels" to help boost the network infrastructure for radio systems used by emergency responders. A location to place that equipment will be determined later based on whether the area is safe, Gorecki said.
The global company, which makes network infrastructure and devices so fire, police and other government officials can communicate during emergencies, also is sending a tractor-trailer with fuel for generators to keep antennas and other equipment working, Gorecki said.
To help keep the power on, ComEd has sent 240 crews comprising about 600 staffers and contractors to its sister company, Philadelphia-based PECO. The workers left on Saturday and are expected to arrive in the storm region on Sunday to help with expected power outages, ComEd spokesman John Schoen said.
PECO is an electric and natural gas utility subsidiary of Exelon Corp., the parent of ComEd, and serves 1.6 million electric and 494,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania.
ComEd crews also will assist another sister company, Baltimore Gas & Electric, with power restoration following the storm. The company serves more than 1.2 million electric customers and more than 650,000 natural gas customers in the Baltimore area.
AT&T Inc., which has its Midwest headquarters in Hoffman Estates, has conducted readiness drills and simulations throughout the year to ensure its networks and workers are prepared in case of emergency. Those preparations include topping off fuel at generators, installing and testing high-capacity backup batteries at cell sites, distributing portable generators and adding capacity to the wireless network, AT&T spokeswoman Mollie West said.
Also, AT&T has been installing more backup and permanent generators at critical cell sites and switching facilities, upgrading electronics critical to network operations above expected flood levels and protecting physical facilities against flooding, West said.
In addition, AT&T is sending generators for cell sites if they lose power during the hurricane, West said.
Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Corp. has been sending more portable generators, gasoline cans, chain saws and flashlights and other products to its hundreds of Sears and Kmart stores from North Carolina to Maine, the company said.
Sears and Kmart also are stocking chain saws and other equipment at East Coast stores to help customers manage cleanup of damaged or downed trees.
Oak Brook-based Ace Hardware has regularly increased its warehouse inventory levels based on weather patterns, and its current hurricane inventory has been in place since before the start of this year's hurricane season, spokeswoman Kate Kirkpatrick said.
Ace has distribution centers nationwide designed to quickly fulfill the needs of retailers and customers, especially during weather emergencies such as this, she said.
"As we watched Sandy begin to develop, we increased our inventory position on key hurricane SKUs (stock keeping units) in our distribution centers in Prince George, Gainesville and Wilton, as well as our newest center in Suffolk, Va.," Kirkpatrick said. "We have also moved additional generator inventory to these centers and have placed units near the areas that could be impacted so we can move them quickly to the affected area if needed."