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TIM for the August 2016 earthquake: technology and people - Case study

10/11/2016 - 00:15 PM

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This emergency has shown that our company is made of technology and skills, but above all of passion and people, who want to work the best they can in the area they live in, aware of how essential it is, in dangerous situations, to be able to make phone calls, send messages, use social networks.
We asked Maria Letizia Stazi, Head of Crisis Management at TIM, to tell us everything, from the beginning.

When the earthquake happened on 24 August 2016 in central Italy, when and how did TIM get going?
At 4.00 am on 24 August, I was contacted by our Control Room, which had been told about the quake by the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology. I immediately realised that this was a very serious event, and, after completing the initial analysis, as laid down in the company procedures, I alerted the competent TIM structures so as to activate the extraordinary organisation.
As company representative,  I was called at 4.30 a.m. to the Working Committee of the Department of Civil Protection, permanently open at its headquarters in Via Vitorchiano in Rome, chaired by  Department Head Fabrizio Curcio. Apart from me, there were all the representatives of the institutions and companies that are members of this committee.
From that moment on, my co-workers and I represented TIM on the Committee without pause, until the evening of Sunday 28 August, when all the coordination activities were transferred to Rieti. Even now, we continue to interface with the national and local institutions for all the issues linked to the emergency.

interview with maria letizia stazi, Head of Crisis Management at TIM

Maria-Letizia-Stazi-300x300-final

...we worked in synergy with the other people involved in the Civil Protection System and with the company structures working on the ground...facilitating interventions of the technical structures, with the support of relevant institutions...

Maria Letizia Stazi

Can you tell us how the emergency evolved, from the start? What requests did you receive from the Department of Civil Protection? What information did you have to provide on TIM infrastructure?  
As always, the first few hours were dramatic, tense and agitated - a time in which it is fundamental to gather a series of items of information (infrastructure damaged, road access, the electricity grid, etc.) to organise the most effective and immediate response. You lose track of time, and work incessantly with the sole objective of getting through the crisis as best you can, provide reliable, clear and essential answers and resolve all the problems as they arise, also in collaboration with the other people involved in the Civil Protection System.
To provide to the Department with all the information it asked for on our infrastructure, I remained in constant contact with my colleagues in the OCTs (*) of the 4 Regions involved (Lazio, Marche, Abruzzo and Umbria), who, from the early hours of the morning onward, checked and tested all the network equipment present in the affected areas, and undertook a series of actions to ensure that fixed, mobile and data communications were in operation, to support the aid activities and the affected population.
During these hours we worked in synergy with the other people involved in the Civil Protection System and with the company structures working on site, receiving requests from the institutions and facilitating interventions of the technical structures, with the support of the relevant institutions (the electricity provider, fire service, road and motorway agencies, highway and town police, etc.).
At the same time, I monitored the evolution of the emergency in the various sectors (roads, health, volunteers, public order, weather, seismic activity, etc.), listening to the representatives of the various organisations that sit on the Committee, to pick up on any issues that might have an impact on our infrastructure, ready if necessary to warn my colleagues in the area, to prevent further damage.
What were the principal actions undertaken by TIM to assure communication services?
There were and still are a great many actions and interventions: from sending various items of emergency equipment to strengthen the fixed, mobile and data network, to the mobile generators provided to power the principal exchange and radiomobile base stations, to overcome the lack of electric power.
With teams of technicians always on call, we were able to satisfy the communication-related needs: new lines, a stronger mobile signal, WIFi with free access in the temporary shelter areas, LTE coverage in the affected areas and strengthening services in the various territorial Coordination Centres run by the Civil Protection people and in the premises used by local institutions and police.
We immediately activated a channel different to the one normally used (187, 191, etc.), so as to quickly satisfy the requests of the aid workers (even on holidays and at night): thanks to this, we were able to grasp and direct the needs of our commercial and technical structures to ensure that activation was fast.
Considering the enormous amount of damage that the earthquake caused in several villages, the activities that TIM has to undertake to “get back to normal” are many. In all crises, requests for telecoms services evolve as the emergency itself evolves: in the first phase, the priority is to satisfy requests for connectivity linked to rescue operations; then to boost telecoms in the temporary shelters; after the safety of the homes has been checked, it will then be necessary to restore utilities and, in a few months, to design a new network in the temporary homes that will be erected.
As you know, TIM has organised a series of initiatives to support the people living in the villages involved, including suspending the deadlines for bill payments, blocking credit management actions, suspending editorial activities on our social network channels (Facebook and Twitter) to disseminate information useful for Civil Protection purposes, and also supporting the caring needs of our customers, free top-ups, and establishing 45500, a freephone number for charitable donations ; we have also made our crowdfunding platform “WithYouWeDo” available for the initiative #unaiutosubito.
From 25 August, our colleagues from the sales team provided assistance to citizens affected by the quake, in a TIM camper van, making recharging stations available, activating SIM cards, changing cards and providing new phones for customers who had lost theirs in the chaos of fleeing the quake.
We are talking about over 240 people, particularly from the Networks and Sales Units, who in the first 10 days were busy every day, working on the front line, day and night.

TIM’S NUMBERS FOR THE AUGUST 2016 EARTHQUAKE

240 people working

on the front line for 10 days

Video in Italian

GETTING PEOPLE TO COMMUNICATE AND SATISFYING THE REQUESTS OF THE INSTITUTIONS... THROUGH

- new lines
- boosting the mobile signal
- free WiFi in the temporary shelter areas
- LTE coverage in the affected areas
- additional services for aid personnel

crises management in TIM

Watch the infographics

TIM’s crisis management strategy unfolds across four stages, from preventing emergencies to reinstating normal business via crisis management planning and handling.

How does our emergency team work, and who is on it?
Managing an emergency is team work, a huge effort that requires the coordinated input of different specialist skills and of many operational structures. The work done by the TIM team must be integrated with the work done by the other teams that make up the National Civil Protection System, all coordinated by the Department.
In emergency situations, our crisis management system prescribes the creation of an extraordinary organisation, which is superimposed on the ordinary one for the entire duration of the emergency.
The composition of the Operational Crisis Teams (*) has been designed and periodically tested, during emergencies and in exercises carried out in collaboration with the Civil Protection Department and other national and local institutions.
All the functions deemed indispensable to manage the first 48/72 hours of the emergency, and to ensure to the institutions, and thus to the Country, all the actions that the Department can ask of our company are part of the 8 OCT (*).
Although it might seem paradoxical to talk about harmony in an emergency (when everything is chaotic and altered), I think I can say that, in my many experiences of managing crises, the TIM team has always worked in harmony, both inside the company and outside, with the institutions, the other companies involved and also with the other communication operators.
I think this happens because we are all concentrated, professionally and also humanly, on assuring communication services to aid workers and the people who have been so severely tested.
What are the behavioural and professional characteristics that make things easier for the managers who are members of the teams during the management of the emergency?
I think that to be able to collaborate in the management of an emergency you need to have already learnt, in previous emergency situations, and to have practised - trained, in other words - in ordinary times.
Every manager in the crisis team must keep their managerial, specialist and technical skills up to date. It is also fundamental to develop the personal and behavioural characteristics that people called on to act in an emergency need to have: balance, self-control, multi-tasking, lucid and rapid decision-making, problem solving, but also willingness  to intervene at any time of the day or night to deal with long periods of stress.
Having worked in the management of several emergencies allows you to improve these behaviours, but equally important is the training guaranteed by the various exercises that we undertake periodically in collaboration with the external institutions.

THE MOST CRITICAL POINT DURING THIS EARTHQUAKE

the difficulty of accessing the affected areas  worsened by the arduous territory

If on the one hand the management of an emergency would be unthinkable without the new communication technologies, on the other, the technologies could not be effectively used without knowledgeable people, trained in crisis management.

Maria Letizia Stazi

What is one of the critical points you have encountered over the course of this emergency? What was its specific nature? Can you tell us about a particular episode?
Naturally, many critical points are common to other emergencies of this type, such as, for example, the earthquake in Abruzzo in 2009, the one in Emilia Romagna in 2012. But every emergency is different to the others, not just because of the type of triggering event (earthquake, flooding, snow, volcanic eruption,....) but also and above all because of the unpredictability of the critical cases it can generate, which often are “emergencies in the emergency”.
The earthquake on 24 August affected small communities, but in which there were lots of tourists present. These villages are spread out over a huge and arduous territory which, because of its geography, meant that TIM’s emergency equipment had to be dispersed in several places. And the road network in the area, which for some of our vehicles has never been somewhere you could drive quickly, was affected by blocks and bottlenecks because of the earthquake. And on 26 August after a fairly strong aftershock (if I remember correctly, it was magnitude 4.8), the Tre Occhi bridge   at Amatrice, the principal access to the town, which had already been damaged in the first earthquake, became unpassable, making access to the affected area a lot more difficult.
All these critical aspects are always resolved, thanks to the hard-working and collaborative spirit of our technical colleagues, who are not frightened by the unexpected. For example, one colleague from Marche, immediately after the first tremors, and despite the serious damage to buildings, made his way through the ruins near the Arquata telephone exchange (massively damaged and without electricity), in order to find an immediate solution to install a generator outside and allow it to be resupplied with diesel, safely, in the following days, thus ensuring that the exchange was in operation until the backup had been created.
This emergency has shown that our company is made of technology and skills, but above all of passion and people, who want to work the best they can in the area they live in, aware of how essential it is, in dangerous situations, to be able to make phone calls, send messages, use social networks
If on the one hand the management of an emergency would be unthinkable without the new communication technologies, on the other, the technologies could not be effectively used without knowledgeable people, trained in crisis management.
What will TIM do when the Civil Protection Department declares the crisis over? What are the post-emergency activities?
In collaboration with all the company structures involved in the management of the crisis, we are already undertaking the assessment of the damages suffered and the expense sustained (human resources, equipment used and services supplied) and will then start the internal accounting needed to access the funding that will be allocated with the upcoming emergency decrees.
Analysing the “balance sheet”, we will take action to improve planning, where necessary, and at the same time continue to invest in prevention, training, communication - namely, in all those activities that enable the risks to be reduced, maintaining the structures in a state of readiness, disseminating a culture of protecting company resources and collaborating with the Country System.

POST EMERGENCY ACTIVITIES

- prevention
- training
- communication

 

(*) The Operational Crisis Team (OCT) is a crisis workgroup which is encharged of the operational management of TIM emergencies. It counts more than 100 representatives across the territory, provided with the specific knowledge to solve the different types of emergencies.