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Losses from Superstorm Sandy led Verizon to expect the unexpected

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When Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012, seawater poured into tunnels and buildings' lower floors in Lower Manhattan, damaging electrical systems across New York and disrupting business operations.

One of the few buildings in Lower Manhattan that remained operational was Goldman Sachs at 200 West St., across the street from the Verizon building at 140 West St. Goldman Sachs had a makeshift flood wall and sandbags blocking all of its entrances, said David G. Cammarata, Verizon Communications Inc.'s assistant treasurer of risk management and insurance.

“It was one of the only buildings that continued to run after Sandy,” he said. “We had a pretty big loss down in Lower Manhattan. One of the things that we have done since to make the company's buildings more robust was to build a flood wall.”

Based in New York, Verizon subsequently spent several million dollars building its own portable flood wall that could be assembled around its building in several days if another large storm tracks toward the city.

Flood waters also entered the Verizon building's lower levels, damaging equipment. Verizon has since moved the equipment higher to prevent that from happening again.

Fuel tanks that Sandy crushed are now in special structures still in the basement, but are reinforced to withstand the water pressure. “One of them is like a submarine” that protects the fuel tanks from being crushed again, Mr. Cammarata said.

Verizon also replaced damaged copper wire cable with fiber optic material and, in some cases, improved its wireless access, he said.

“When you have a loss, you're not going to go back to the same technology; you would go with a better technology,” he said.

Mr. Cammarata said the big lesson from Sandy is to be prepared for anything.

“I don't think anyone ever anticipated seeing that kind of storm creating that type of flooding in Lower Manhattan. You sometimes have to plan for the unexpected, think about what things could potentially happen and if it does happen, are you prepared for it?”