It's hard to see the devastation and destruction in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria and not take action. Help has poured in from all over the country through individual volunteers, non-profits, and corporations, including Cisco.
While it will take months to restore power and other necessities, Cisco and other tech companies are working with government agencies such as FEMA and non-government organizations such as NetHope, a technology and collaboration based non-profit, to help restore connectivity. "Communication is the lifeline for emergency response. NetHope has a long-standing relationship with Cisco," says Frank Schott, NetHope's Vice President of Global programs.
The scope of this disaster meant collaboration was key and working with NetHope and its partners allowed Cisco's Tactical Operations (TacOps) team to deploy to Puerto Rico, and with the help of Cisco Puerto Rico based employees, install state-of-the-art networking equipment. "Their outsanding TacOps teams and Cisco Meraki solutions have been fantastic partners in helping us restore connectivity across Puerto Rico," Schott said.
Cisco helped found NetHope in 2001 in collaboration with Save the Children. Cisco, other corporations and charitable foundations give donations to the organization to support initiatives.
Restoring critical communication
When a disaster strikes, communication becomes critical not only for emergency personnel, but also for the local people to simply get in touch with loved ones. In the days following the the hurricane, stories emerged of family members unable to call, text, or email, leaving relatives and friends fearing the worst.
A NetHope volunteer shared the emotional reaction of a Puerto Rican mother who was finally able to communicate with her son in New York to let him know she was safe. He left Puerto Rico the day before the storm, but it took two weeks before his mom was able to travel to a coastal town with limited wi-fi and text him via the WhatsApp app.
NetHope continues to receive requests for telecommunications support with more than 105 areas needing their communication restored. While the critical work continues, the federal government has recognized the efforts of Cisco and its partners.
Cisco TacOps on site
Cisco TacOps consists of a highly skilled and dedicated team that can mobilize and respond to disasters all over the world when catastrophes knock out communications. TacOps also manages Cisco's Disaster Incident Response Team, consisting of trained Cisco volunteers who take time off from their day jobs to deploy and help with relief efforts. TacOps works with first responders, government agencies, critical infrastructure and NGOs to get communications back online.
With a small number of Cisco employees and their families living in Puerto Rico, the company continues to support them as they manage difficult and challenging conditions.
Rebuilding after Hurricane Maria will take years and Cisco remains committed to assisting in the region. Cisco has provided more than $2.2 million in cash and product grants to support the relief efforts in the region. The Cisco Foundation has a disaster response employee matching gift campaign of $1 million dollars to benefit organizations responding in the Carribean and Puerto Rico. The Foundation will match eligible contributions up to $10,000 per employee. Employees can click here to donate.