As soon as Sandy’s furor faded, Time Warner Cable got into action to help the communities in New York & New Jersey.
We donated $600,000 to recovery efforts, divided among the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the American Red Cross in New York and New Jersey.
According to Bobby Amirshahi, VP of Communications – and the head of TWC NYC communications during the storm,
When something like this happens, the easiest, most immediately helpful thing you can do is to write a check to the people that know how to distribute it the right way and make sure that the funds are available to be disbursed immediately.
Although giving money is great – nobody turns that down – Bobby’s team was far from finished. They worked with the operations team to distribute mobile WiFi hotspots and recharging stations for people without power – to recharge computers, phones, and get in touch with loved ones.
We have a lot of employees in New York City who work in direct sales, selling our services over the phone, at stores, or even door to door. We weren’t going to be selling a lot of cable right after the biggest storm to ever hit New York City subsided. Amirshahi worked with Lynden Armogan, senior Director of Retail Store and Marketing to redirect the sales team to our mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and recharging stations.
They became our brand ambassadors, working the recharging stations and Wi-Fi hotspots well into the night. They were out there well past midnight, in the cold.
TWC also offered use of laptops, phones and tablets at the WiFi stations and handed out supplies such as trash bags, gloves, dust masks and boots. The Queens Center Mall and Staten Island store locations welcomed anyone to enter and charge their devices, free of charge. According to Anthony Basile, an engineer in our Tech Ops department on Staten Island:
We tried to provide at least the chance that people could call their families and let them know that they were OK, to be able to reach out. We set up stations all over, we were coming in on generators to keep everything up as much as possible to be able to help these people.
It was hard. It was hard to see a lot of people go through so much in such a short amount of time and you can only reach out and do as much as you can.
This video is a conversation I had with one of our direct sales reps at a recharging station in the days after Hurricane Sandy:
Tony Ontiveros is the AVP of Operations in a territory that includes Staten Island:
We started looking at what could people use at that very moment, and we started putting together charging stations and Wi-Fi stations. We noticed that there was a lot of food, a lot of really good food, people were really pitching in with heaters and handwarmers and garbage bags and masks and all the kinds of things that they were living through at the moment. And it was just amazing, the team really came together. People spent evenings out there on the charging stations and lighting stations. It was really well received, amazing just to see how the community came together – our employees as well as Staten Island.
There were a lot of news teams here, and as the sun set, and everyone was back to the reality of “that’s my house and I can’t live there anymore,” it felt good that we were still out there with heaters and things, and just even conversations. We had other people dropping off food and clothing and kind of became our own little relief center. And it was just nice to be able to be part of the community.
A week or so after the storm, Time Warner Cable also rented out a number of food trucks from Manhattan to send to the devastated areas in Staten Island and the Rockaways. We used Twitter and Facebook to let people know where the trucks were going to be, and eventually they served over 30,000 meals to people in severely affected areas.
According to Amirshahi:
The people in those areas are working all day pulling wet carpets out of their homes, they aren’t necessarily worried about their cable service – but we were able to give them a hot meal.
According to Chief Security Officer Brian Allen, as reported in Multichannel News:
Time Warner Cable dispatched free charging stations for its customers, and served 30,000 complimentary meals using rented food trucks. “We set up right next to the guys charging $15 to charge your phone … and pretty much put them out of business.”
Amirshahi’s team also made sure that they were able to provide the best, freshest information on known outage and repair times for TWC customers. “We got spreadsheets from the construction department twice a day, and my team scrubbed them to break the information down into the street/borough, cause of outage, and estimated repair time. Then we pulled together our own master lists and published them on Facebook, Twitter, our website, TWCable Untangled, and got the word out to NY1 and on the radio.”
Time Warner Cable is still investing in the areas hardest hit by Sandy over a year later. We’ve pledged $50,000 to open a Time Warner Cable Learning Lab in the Rockaways, to help locals develop computer skills, get job training and placement, and important youth and educational programs.
The Time Warner Cable Learning Lab at the RDRC will consist of computers fully equipped with software and the latest computer applications, as well as other technologies that will provide the organization with a state-of-the-art facility to better serve local residents. The Learning Lab will be located within the RDRC facility at 1920 Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway, N.Y., and is scheduled to open later this year.