Cisco has a special team called Tactical Operations that swoops in after natural disasters to get Internet and telephone service back up, so that rescue workers can do their jobs.
The work is emotionally challenging. For example, the team went to the Philippines just after Typhoon Haiyan killed 4,000 people, injured another 18,000 and displaced four million. They saw mass destruction and suffering, team member Tim Woods, told Business Insider.
“There’s extreme sadness and devastation. You know it’s very dire situation, so you have to have an A-game on. You are there to help,” Woods explains.
But it’s also extremely gratifying, network engineer Rakesh Bharania says. After arriving in the Philippines, the team was driving a military truck through a rural area between cities, areas that a few days earlier were filled with villages. Rescue workers hadn’t gotten to this part of the country, so survivors were walking or hitchhiking to the nearest city to get help, 60 miles away.
The truck stopped to pick up four women who had lost their homes and were looking for missing family members.
“It was very clear that we were foreigners,” Bharania said. “One of us was from China, two from the States. This woman grabbed my hand and said, ‘You are such a blessing.'”
Although the women didn’t understand the technical nature of the work, they knew that “People from the outside world were caring about them and they were really thankful,” he said.
Cisco donates all equipment, supplies, transportation, covers all the costs. The team consists of 10 full time workers and another 300 or so employees who volunteer as needed, Bharania tells Business Insider.
Cisco TacOps helps with disasters in the U.S. and abroad. This was the scene they saw in 2011 after an E4 Tornado hit in Alabama.
A recent disaster for the team was the Philippines typhoon in November. They do a lot of planning before heading out to the disaster zone areas.
Because these folks are going into disaster zones, where there is no food, water, sanitation facilities, they bring everything with them. It fills a big aeroplane.
The team sees a lot of suffering, people in shock or grieving for the dead, says TacOps team member Sue-Lynn Hinson.
Cisco also makes phones and other telecom equipment. It brings and installs it all so public safety officials can work on the rescue.
After Cisco got the equipment working, these Philippines rescue workers were able to see pictures of the devastation for the first time.
The team brings tents and sleeps in them. Each group of Cisco volunteers will stay on scene for about two weeks before replacements, if needed, arrive.
Cisco created a bunch of Network Emergency Response Vehicles (called NERVs) for local disasters. It's a travelling telecom/Internet link.
During Hurricane Sandy, Cisco Deployed 6 NERV trucks and other utility trucks around New York and other affected areas.
We're told that people at Cisco are especially proud of this team, knowing that when disaster strikes Cisco sends aid. The team has earned its share of corporate awards, too.
Here's a list of disasters where TacOps has worked. They also help with community events like marathons and do safety training programs.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.