Haiti rescue workers get break on cell phone bills 

Bay Area residents aiding in the earthquake relief effort in Haiti won’t have to worry about paying hefty cell phone bills for calling or texting home — at least, not if they are AT&T customers.

The phone company recently announced that rescue workers wanting to “reach out and touch someone” in the U.S. will have their roaming charges waived through Feb. 28, with billing relief retroactive to Jan. 12, the day the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake struck.

AT&T said it will also waive charges for texts and photo messages sent from Haiti along with per kilobyte data usage on their wireless devices.

Of course, nothing is totally free.

“Customers’ monthly recurring charges will not be waived,” the company said.

But the long-distance calls can certainly be costly, and the idea will encourage continued aid to the devastated region, said AT&T spokeswoman Gina Pernetti.

“We’re doing this so that they can focus on what they’re there to do,” Pernetti said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

The relief efforts from Bay Area residents have not been minimal.

Among the examples of support, a team of 15 nurses, surgeons and other specialists from several Bay Area hospitals recently returned from more than a week in Haiti.

Last month, Mayor Gavin Newsom called upon The City’s nearly 28,000 workers to voluntarily contribute some of their paycheck toward the relief effort.

Coin collection machines geared toward the relief effort have also been installed in six city buildings and The City’s 15 Safeway stores.

City officials are also looking to assemble a team of local building experts to help in the rebuild, as they know a thing or two about quake-proof construction, Newsom has said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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