Communication center helps wildland firefighters, community during blaze

Posted at 10:56 PM, Jun 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-10 12:32:19-04

It’s so secret, ABC15 cannot legally reveal where it’s located. It’s a building so important, the U.S. government considers it critical infrastructure.

"This is the nerve center, the heart of our network," David Nelson of Verizon Wireless said. 

It’s a fortified Verizon Switch and a hub of communication for Arizona cell phone users.

"I think every thought humanly possible and went into keeping this thing up and operational during anything that we can think of," Nelson said. 

The center processes information, millions of data requests, phone calls and voicemails from cell phones each day.

"When they have a need, they do call us, because they rely on our communication our services," Nelson said.

Frontline firefighters need to be connected when disasters strike, such as wildfires. So do people in the communities in danger from the flames.

That’s when COWS or “Cell on Wheels” can be sent at a moment’s notice to restore service.

“The Yarnell Hill Fire, burned that area, and actually destroyed one of our cell sites and we were able to very quickly and restore service for the firefighters that were out there," Nelson said. 

Each COW has its own unique capability and specialty. It can be pulled by a truck and placed anywhere it’s needed, taking the place of a damaged cell tower.

Verizon also has COLTS or “Cell on Light Trucks” which can be driven into areas experience high network demand or other issues.

"We consider our service critical in a life and death emergency and just everyday life and we do everything we can to make sure that we are up when a customer is needed," Nelson said. 

The center itself is a marvel of modern technology. Its interior servers and other critical components are kept at a 78 degrees. The building is fortified and design to stand up to the toughest monsoon storm, and the hottest heat Arizona has to offer.