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 THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- GTE California is installing coin phone trailers at key locations in Laguna Beach and Malibu, and will provide free local and toll calling to victims of the recent firestorms. AT&T will provide free long-distance service from those phones, excluding international calls.
 GTE also is working with other long-distance carriers for inclusion in this program.
 The phone banks, with eight phones each, will be installed this morning at Pacific Coast Highway and Yerba Buena Road in Malibu, and the Malibu Community Center near Zuma.
 In Laguna Beach, two mobile phone banks will be placed at the GTE building at 295 Broadway.
 "By providing free calling services, we hope to ease the suffering and anxiety of our customers who have experienced such tremendous losses from the fires," said Larry Sparrow, GTE West Area president. "While the company assesses damage to the telephone network in these areas, we want to ensure that residents can make important contacts to put their lives back together. We appreciate AT&T's assistance in providing free long-distance service."
 GTE continues to urge customers to limit their telephone usage as much as possible. Callers might experience "slow dial tone" as the company's switching network manages the flow of calls to continue to provide telephone service.
 The company suggests that people in fire-affected areas use an out- of-state contact to notify family and friends of their safety and whereabouts. This will reduce congestion on California's telephone network and improve chances that concerned family and friends nationwide can be easily contacted.
 GTE Offers Assistance to Fire Victims
 GTE California will transfer telephone service at no charge for customers forced to relocate due to the firestorms.
 The company will move one customer line to a new location at no charge for disaster victims, as long as the new location is within GTE service territory. GTE also will transfer the service back to its original location for one year, again at no charge.
 If a service transfer is not required, the company will offer temporary remote call forwarding or Personal Secretary (voice mail) at no charge for one telephone number. The offer is available to disaster victims within GTE service territory.
 Customers should call the number listed in the GTE Everything Pages under the heading "Where to reach us."
 Cellular Phones Provided to Fire Departments
 To facilitate communications among firefighters, GTE has provided mobile cellular telephones to fire departments in Ventura County and Laguna Beach. These "Gopaks" include five mobile telephones and a fax machine.
 Additionally, GTE has provided additional telephone lines for the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and for the emergency services command centers in Laguna Beach, Malibu, Thousand Oaks and Hemet.
 The company also has installed a portable microwave facility to serve the Laguna Beach Police Department, and is continuing to work with emergency agencies to provide communications capabilities.
 Company Reports on Damage to Facilities
 This morning, GTE reported extensive damage to outside plant facilities in Laguna Beach. Damaged or destroyed facilities include telephone poles and cables. Fires also damaged outside facilities near San Bernardino, Hemet, and Temecula.
 The damage resulted from wind-swept fires that have plagued Southern California since Tuesday afternoon.
 No GTE buildings have been damaged; all critical telephone switching centers are intact. Also, the company has no reports of employee injuries.
 "We've worked through the night to assess damage to the telephone network and establish restoral plans where we are able," Sparrow said. "We will restore service as soon as possible, but employee safety is a paramount concern.
 "On behalf of all GTE employees, I'd like to express appreciation to area fire and police departments for granting access to areas where it is safe to go in," he said. "The fires have presented a difficult struggle with no immediate end in sight. The tremendous efforts of emergency service agencies to save lives and property is a credit to the region."
 The company's Emergency Operations Center has been operating 24-hours-a-day since 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. The center monitors events, and coordinates restoral efforts and the allocation of resources.
 Recap of Wednesday Events, Outlook for Today
 GTE evacuated its customer contact center in Mentone Wednesday afternoon due to heavy smoke in the area. The GTE building was not in jeopardy. The Laguna Beach service yard on Laguna Canyon Road also was evacuated Wednesday afternoon due to encroaching fires. Employees were allowed back into the facility early this morning.
 In Mentone, near Redlands, about 1,200 customers lost telephone service after fire melted a 12,000-foot fiber-optic cable early Wednesday evening. Other outages included 260 customers in Yucaipa and 139 customers in Homeland.
 In the initial fire, which affected Thousand Oaks, fire severed a GTE fiber-optic cable on Laguna Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains. That loss disrupted various non-GTE communications systems on the peak. Communications for the Pt. Mugu Naval Yard were not disrupted, as earlier reported.
 The company anticipated having replacement fiber cables installed at Laguna Peak and in Mentone sometime today.
 GTE customer service centers -- including operator services, repair, billing and service orders -- should be open for business today during normal hours. Operator services and repair centers are open 24-hours-a- day.
 GTE California, based in Thousand Oaks, serves 3.1 million customers in 330 communities, mostly in Southern California.
 -0- 10/28/93
 /CONTACT: Larry Cox, Dan Smith or Mike Murray, 800-227-5556 or (out-of-state) 805-372-5870, all of GTE California; or Diane Schwilling of AT&T, 213-239-7658/

CO: GTE California; AT&T ST: California IN: UTI SU:

EH-JB -- LA030 -- 8038 10/28/93 14:35 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Oct 28, 1993

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