KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A day after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, the search and rescue effort is underway. It could take weeks to reach everyone impacted by the storm.

Families are struggling to reach loved ones because of power outages, damage to buildings and roads, and cell phone outages.

Three of the country’s largest cell phone companies say they are stepping up to help West Central Florida recover from the monster storm.

AT&T

AT&T said it waived all talk, text and data overages for the next month to those living in West Central Florida.

It includes prepaid and regular customers with billing addresses in hundreds of zip codes across Florida. The full list of those included is posted on AT&T’s website.

AT&T said it is also allowing customers on other carriers to roam on its networks for free right now.

While customers in the areas may still receive alerts about data usage over the next month, accounts will reflect the credits and/or waived data, voice and text charges, according to AT&T.

The company also deployed disaster response crews and equipment into the impacted area as soon as it was safe. They are now working to restore service as quickly as possible.

AT&T said it worked for years to move facilities and cell towers to higher elevation and installed more generators in hopes of preventing long-term outages from hurricanes and storms.

DISASTER RELIEF

AT&T also set up a text-to-donate campaign to help the American Red Cross assist in the recovery efforts.

The company said people who wish to donate to the cause can do so in several ways:

  • Text IAN to 90999 to make a one-time donation of $10 to the American Red Cross
    • Help those affected by Hurricane Ian and the immediate and long-term recovery efforts through the American Red Cross
  • Text DISASTER to 20222 to make a one-time $10 donation to Volunteer Florida Foundation
    • Donation will support local disaster relief organizations active in disaster response and recovery
  • Text HOME to 501501 to make a one-time $20 donation to SBP
    • Donation will support disaster response team support and long-term home rebuilding in the affected communities
  • Text CONNECT to 20222 to make a one-time $10 donation to the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center
    • Donation will help them connect communities in crisis through no cost Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) solutions for survivors and responders

T-Mobile/Sprint

The company says the majority of its customers have unlimited talk, text, and data.

T-Mobile is offering unlimited talk, text, and data through Oct 3 for those impacted in counties across Florida and Georgia. More information about the plan can be found on T-Mobile’s website.

T-Mobile also has crews on the ground to check and repair equipment and refuel generators.

DISASTER RELIEF

T-Mobile is also allowing customers to quickly and easily make donations to different relief efforts through cell phones.

  • Text IAN to 90999 to make a one-time $10 donation to the American Red Cross. 
    • Donation will help those affected by Hurricane Ian and the immediate and long-term recovery efforts
  • Text DISASTER to 20222 to make a one-time $10 donation to the Florida Disaster Fund
    •  Donation will support local disaster relief organizations active in disaster response and recovery
  • Text RELIEF to 20222 to make a one-time $10 donation to the Orlando Health Foundation
    • Donation will support their team and provide care to those who need it

Verizon

Flooding and debris are making work difficult and dangerous as crews try to assess damage and prioritize restoration efforts, according to the company.

Crews are working to prioritize help for Verizon engineers and technicians have begun the difficult work of assessing damage and prioritizing first responders, emergency operation centers and search and rescue efforts.

The hardest hit areas are primarily along the west coast of Florida from Tampa through Naples. 

Verizon said it will provide unlimited calling, texting and data through October 4 to people living in a number of Florida counties. The full list can be found on Verizon’s website.

Verizon said customers can also verify eligibility for call/text/data relief by entering their zip code here: https://www.verizon.com/featured/relief/.

DISASTER RELIEF

Several nonprofit organizations launched text-to-donate campaigns. Verizon customers can make a $10 donation by texting the numbers listed below:

  • Text IAN to 90999 to make a donation to the American Red Cross
  • Text DISASTER to 20222 to make a donation to the Florida Disaster Fund activated by the Volunteer Florida Foundation. 
  • Text RELIEF to 20222 to make a donation to the Orlando Health Foundation. 

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