- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

Verizon Inc. said yesterday that offices in the District and New York were doing the best they could to maintain phone service in the wake of the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.
Phone lines in the Pentagon are working as "close to normal as possible," Larry Babbio, vice president of Verizon's telecommunications group, said in a conference call yesterday.
Verizon, based in New York, also said that affected areas in the District and in New York were handling about 340 million phone calls, twice the usual amount.
The company increased its usual force of more than 700 operators serving the Northeast by 50 percent. More than 1,000 operators handled four times the normal number of directory-assistance calls early yesterday, and 11/2 times the normal number of collect and credit-card services. Calls to regular operators were being answered in two seconds or less, to ensure that trapped victims dialing the operator could reach help quickly, the company said.
Mr. Babbio also said the company has accounted for the vast majority of its 488 employees assigned to three floors in the World Trade Center and 40 employees at the Pentagon.
In New York City, Verizon has set up additional phone lines for St. Vincent's and Bellevue hospitals, and for the New York Police Department.
Mr. Babbio said the company is pumping water from the basement in one of its damaged facilities so it can restore power to the building using generators, "but that could be a very long process."
"If you take a computer and dip it in water, and then throw dirt on it, and try to turn it on, you'll find out quickly that it won't work," he said during the conference call.
Mr. Babbio said 80 percent of the New York Stock Exchange's phone lines go through Verizon's Broad Street office and are "somewhat capable of service." The remaining 20 percent go through the West 14th Street office, which is adjacent to the World Trade Center and experienced heavy structural and water damage.


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