On the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, John Croce, a program manager with Sprint's Emergency Response Team (ERT), not only took my call, but put off lunch for a few minutes and whistled off an e-mail to his client, then told me all Sprint was doing to provide both coverage and emergency response for the nation's capital. I guess they take that "response" part seriously.For the inauguration, all of Sprint's ERT customers get Level 5, or top priority service, during the event (Sprint is providing this level of service to various news stations, and several critical government agencies). Priority service means customers get priority queuing (it doesn't kick others off the line and it's not a private channel, but it is better than what the general public will get) for voice calls and with direct connect calls.
Sprint programs every handset to critical "Talk Groups," Croce told me, so if something happens, people can pick up the phone and get to the executive team or out to volunteers, pushing messages out to tons of people at once.
To do this, Sprint is deploying two on-air SatColts (its satellite trucks), one IP trailer for voice over IP, and approximately 2,000 handsets with the priority connect service. You can see an in-depth look at Sprint's offerings in this video.
The Emergency Response Team's forte is in disaster readiness, so naturally there's a team standing by -- it is the emergency response team for the inauguration, and the members will be hanging out in a deployment support vehicle, which is a big truck with 3,000 hand sets, a satellite link hookup, and Internet hookup, all for rapid cell deployment.
Croce and a team of Sprint employees are living in this truck for two days, with 1,000 active handsets and on-site technical support if needed.
Sprint prepared for the inauguration by doing some capacity additions and enhancements, including adding some extra in-building coverage in the operational area. And if the IDEN network gets knocked out for whatever reason, Sprint's customers can go to Direct Talk, using a 900-Mhz walkie-talkie-like feature that can reach three miles in optimal conditions.
Having spent a couple of days with the Emergency Response Team last summer, I'm pretty sure it will be ready for anything ... but I'm not so sure I want to be in that truck after 48 hours.