Jens Thees was one of the first Deutsche Telekom special forces to arrive in the flood area. The technician helped to ensure that important operating stations in Prüm and Gerolstein in the Eifel region were soon back online for customers.
As Jens Thees drives from the Hunsrück region of Rheinland-Pfalz to the Eifel region the morning after the floods in the west, he makes his way through streets full of debris and mud. "Pictures you don't forget," he says, knowing full well that things look even more severe in the Ahr Valley. Jens Thees is on standby duty. As early as Thursday night, he kept a constant eye on the storm reports. After the early morning call from the control center, he sets off directly from home. He first drives to Prüm, while a team colleague drives directly to Gerolstein. In Prüm, the power supply to one of the operating stations had failed, and with it the mobile and landline networks. Thees and a colleague drive up a hill to order an emergency generator from the Telekom supply unit. There, the cell phone has a connection. Within a few hours, they get the technology up and running again. Customers who are connected to one of the gray boxes between them and the service point should now have a connection again. Where water and mud have torn away the distribution box, the situation is unfortunately still different.
Thees continues on to Gerolstein. There, a large Deutsche Telekom switching station is under water, a so-called "K-VSt" (Kontrollvermittlungsstelle, control switching station). It is not only Gerolstein that is supplied from here. This important hub is also connected to other smaller operating stations with a total of 16,000 households and around 200 companies as far away as Saarland. In addition, 36 mobile communications sites are connected.
Cables that make up the core of the Deutsche Telekom network throughout Germany terminate in such technical units. Like huge data highways. Here, these long-distance routes branch out to smaller nodes and mobile communications stations, and ultimately to the gray boxes on the street and on to the customers. There is special technical equipment for all this. These collect the mobile and fixed network traffic from all directions and forward it, simply put. There is also special traffic, such as for public authorities or so-called high-bit-rate lines for companies. So it's all full of cables and electrical technology, dependent on electricity - and very susceptible to water.
Thees climbs over pallets and cable drums across the water in the yard to reach a loading ramp on dry feet. Colleagues have already been able to open a door there. Inside: Water and mud. "It's a matter of keeping a cool head," says the 41-year-old. "All you see is the mess and you have to sort it out first." Colleagues note: The landline technology is largely destroyed. Mobile technology appears intact, but power is missing. The basement is under water up to the ceiling, with cable distributors and power connections lying here. The plug connections of the patch cables of the fiber optic distributor there, it later turns out, have withstood the water and mud masses due to fixed locks.
From somewhere someone gets a flipchart, also chairs. One of them takes the scepter in his hand. Thees: "That is enormously important in such a situation." They make a plan. Match the situation with their lists. These show what is in which room. What is most important, what needs to be repaired first, and when and where.
"One simply works"
The technical help organization (Technisches Hilfswerk, THW), fire department as well as Deutsche Telekom's disaster management team arrive before nightfall. The emergency services suck away mud and pump out the cellar so that Jens Thees and his colleagues can get in there the next day. "It's a terrible sight, this used to be a familiar workspace," says the technician. "The water even crushed steel doors." Downstairs, for example, equipment that was connected to the still intact fiber optic distributor had been flooded. In the meantime, emergency power generators are already in place, and so is mobile communications. Thees puts together what is still needed immediately and sends the order out to Telekom. Fortunately, the cell phone here still has some signal for it. At 1:30 p.m., the appropriately equipped container from Deutsche Telekom arrives. A mobile replacement system called "Save-T" from Deutsche Telekom's Disaster Recovery Management. The technicians work under high pressure. In shifts around the clock. They import the backed-up databases from K-Vst, connect everything to the equipment that is still intact. Over the weekend, they gradually restore the connections. On Monday, 12,000 of 16,000 customers are already back online. The colleagues continue with individual data lines, for example for EC cash in stores and gas stations.
Thees, like others, is struggling with fatigue in what has been an exhausting situation for days: "One simply works." The Telekom specialists support each other, and far beyond their usual regional areas of operation. This collegiality is good for Jens Thees, especially during this deployment, as he says. "Can I support you," or "Come on, I'll carry on for you. You go home now and get some rest" - that's what they say more often these days. Some have specially stopped their vacation. Jens Thees has canceled his. Next, he will continue working in the Ahr valley. Like many others, he can't quite switch off. "In the evening I go to bed thinking about the job and wake up in the morning with it: Have I thought of everything?" He organizes the upcoming task in his mind, thinks of connections that still need to be made - and of the people for whom he is doing this.