Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021 - 24

Independent Resilience Award
A severe weather event may
have knocked ImOn down,
but it came back stronger.
It was a normal day in August of last year when
disaster struck Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the areas
surrounding it. A derecho, a line of fast-moving
windstorms accompanied by severe thunderstorms,
traveled 770 miles from South Dakota
to western Ohio and Michigan. It saved its most
powerful gusts for Cedar Rapids, where ImOn
Communications is headquartered.
ImOn's hub was condemned in August 2020 from derecho damage,
with the provider needing to move all customers that ran through it to
another hub.
Maximum wind gusts in the derecho were estimated
to be near 140mph in the areas surrounding
Cedar Rapids. More than a week after the storm, ImOn was still
working to determine the full scale of its impact on the network and
on the homes of customers and employees.
" During the derecho, we basically went through two months without
revenue coming in because there's no power. There's no service, "
ImOn president and CEO Patrice Carroll says. " There were many
days that it's like OK, it doesn't look good. There was so much bad
news to share. "
ImOn's teams estimated that almost 26 miles of fiber and coax
network was downed by the storm, and approximately one-third of
that was in need of repair or complete replacement. Each day, crews
were split between making fixes to individual homes and repairing
portions of the company's network between affected neighborhoods
and network hubs. By September 2, 85% of ImOn customers saw
their service restored.
ImOn sent employees to help team members who had storm damage
to help them remove trees and with some of the simpler repair
work on their homes. Carroll thought it important to take that step
because people couldn't possibly focus on work or other tasks when
they were experiencing trauma at home. Her employees stayed connected
and came through the derecho together, and that gave them
a confidence they'd never had before.
" There was almost a kind of a swagger in that-look, it destroyed
what took us 14 years to build, we rebuilt it and our performance
metrics on the network are better than they were before the
derecho, " she says. " We run a very clean network and the team
takes an incredible amount of pride in the quality of service we
provide and having that destroyed was very hard on them, but being
able in four-and-a-half-months to get our quality of service back up,
I think that confidence is going to carry us a long way. "
The derecho struck when COVID-19 cases in the area were on the
uptick, and ImOn continued to support efforts that brought broadband
to those who most desperately needed it. It worked with the
24
CablefaxTopOps.com
city of Dubuque to install a significant amount of free WiFi in lowincome
areas around town. The company also sponsored an event
venue that transformed its space into an internet cafe. Teachers
used the space as a place to connect with their students, and those
who didn't have a solid broadband connection at home used it as a
place to work or complete school assignments.
ImOn completed those projects much faster than it would have
before the pandemic, and Carroll would like that quicker pace to be
something that sticks around many years into the future.
" We did stand up many things without the planning and consternation.
It was like okay, what's the minimum planning we need to do?
Let's get it up by Friday. In a communications company, you're in
some ways, by nature, risk averse. And I think this has really taught
us or shifted our relationship with risk, " she says. " We can do this,
and then when things don't go right, we can manage through those
and we'll still come out all right. " - Sara Winegardner
FAST FACTS
„ The Midwest derecho caused an estimated $7.5
billion in damage over the span of its 14-hour
life, making it the costliest single-day severe
thunderstorm to strike the U.S. since 1980.
„ ImOn Communications previously lost its
office, call center and some infrastructure in a
historic flood that struck the area in 2008.
Despite its own challenges, it immediately began
helping local businesses get reconnected.
„ ImOn sponsors more than 110 nonprofits and
community groups in its footprint, including
the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Rapids and
the African American Museum of Iowa.
September 2021
Cablefax Top Ops
http://www.CablefaxTopOps.com

Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021

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