We swiftly pulled together the power of NBC News, The Weather Channel, our owned-and-operated local TV stations, and our other networks to deliver unprecedented and up-to-the-minute news coverage of the storm. Our credible and respected journalists informed viewers on everything from transportation delays and shutdowns to mandatory evacuations and power outages, while also assessing the storm’s impact on the economy and impending presidential election.
By leveraging our vast media resources, we helped ensure safety information was accessible to as many people as possible during the hurricane. We went beyond merely reporting on the disaster that was unfolding in front of us. Our news organizations informed and empowered those affected by the storm by providing unrivaled, 24/7 news coverage on multiple platforms.
Before Hurricane Sandy hit, Comcast teams in the Northeast and other affected regions took every precaution they could to help area residents prepare. "We increased our staffing immediately and notified customers of our plan and what they should do after the storm hit," says LeAnn Talbot, Regional Senior Vice President at Comcast.
Employee safety was the top priority for Comcast in the wake of the hurricane, followed by assessing the damage, restoring communications services to our customers, and helping affected communities. "We worked with first responders, the New York City Office of Emergency Management, and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to get them restored first," LeAnn says. "We then brought in generators and fuel to hard-hit areas — including places that went up to six weeks without power."
Comcast opened up access to approximately 20,000 XFINITY hotspots in 10 hard-hit states and the District of Columbia, providing free WiFi access for people to communicate with family and friends or receive crucial recovery information. Our hotspots supported more than 250,000 individual sessions involving tens of thousands of unique users. We worked with local agencies and organizations to set up free broadband Internet and telephone service in temporary shelters. And we opened our 15 New Jersey payment centers to provide free power-charging stations to anyone in need. "It’s in our corporate DNA to give back and support communities," says LeAnn. "We saw the horrific damage firsthand and wanted to do anything we could to help."
NBCUniversal also saw an immediate need to help in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In less than 36 hours, our employees — many with damage to their own homes — organized the star-studded Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together telethon. "We needed to help people as soon as possible and knew moving quickly would generate a bigger response," says Doug Vaughan, Executive Vice President of Special Programs and Late Night Programming.
Our employees worked around the clock, making calls and gathering support to produce the event. The telethon generated more than $23 million in pledges for the American Red Cross relief efforts.
Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Aerosmith were among the featured musicians, while celebrities like Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, and Whoopi Goldberg made guest appearances to urge viewers to donate. "All of the celebrities and musicians were eager to help," Doug says.
The Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together telethon inspired unprecedented generosity. A record-breaking number of donations poured in through text messages, phone calls, and online channels. As a result, the Red Cross processed more than 1,300 transactions a minute, its website was at 500 times its normal capacity, and at any given moment during the telethon we had approximately 70,000 people waiting to donate.
"Donations to the Red Cross generated by the telethon, and from other generous donors across the country, have provided shelter, food, water, and supplies after the storm," says Neal Litvack, Chief Development Officer for the American Red Cross. "These donations are helping people and communities recover and rebuild."
The Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together telethon showcased the power of media in mobilizing positive action and amplifying relief efforts. "This could never have occurred in such a short period of time without the incredible people at Comcast and NBCUniversal," says Peggy Dyer, Chief Marketing Officer at the American Red Cross. "They were able to quickly organize an informative and inspiring event that encouraged viewers to get involved and make a difference."