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Phones stopped working, banks had to close, what else?
Last Friday’s cell network disruption caught people off guard.
One minute people were sending texts and making phone calls. The next they were left wondering what was going on.
Last Friday’s Atlantic Canada cell network outage took many by surprise. And its reach went beyond just cellphones or any one service provider.
Landline phone service was hit or miss. Some areas and businesses experienced computer disruptions. Flights at airports were delayed or cancelled. And the list went on. On Facebook – ah, yes, we still had social media – people surmised about what had caused the outage. Solar flares or a possible hack were among the theories being thrown around.
The official word from Bell was that the outage had been caused by third-party construction work in which two major fibre links were cut. In a statement, Telus said a cut cable was the culprit.
The outage lasted several hours and did create inconvenience and concern.
People who worried that 911 would not be accessible were calling it in such large numbers to test it out that the police had to remind people not to call 911 unless it was an emergency.
The outage caused other issues for first responders. Not only were cellular networks disrupted, but the system emergency services personnel use to reach one another – a system called Trunk Mobile Radio two or TMR2 – wasn’t available.
Mike Shand of the Shelburne Fire Department said firefighters were standing by at the Shelburne department last Friday just as a precaution.
“We can still communicate with VHF radios within the department but can’t communicate with other departments with the TMR,” he said.
Banking services were another area impacted. A quick tour of banks on Main Street in Yarmouth around 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 4 found two banks closed: Bank of Montreal and CIBC (although the CIBC was closed due to its proximity to a building being examined for structural stability).
The Toronto Dominion Bank had an employee stationed at the door allowing entry on a client-by-client basis with limited withdrawals permitted. Clients were also encouraged to turn to online banking where bill payments and the trans- fer of funds could be performed.
At Coastal Financial Credit Union the ATM was not working, but a kiosk inside the bank was using Eastlink service and clients could print off their information and withdraw funds from counter attendants.
Scotiabank was cashing cheques for clients and customers that were known to staff. There was no ATM service and clients could not withdraw funds through counter service.
At the Royal Bank clients were serviced one customer at a time. ATM service was available in the entryway, which was packed with people.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority, meanwhile, tweeted out that operations were continuing as nor- mal during the cellular service outage. The health authority was also encouraging people to check in on their neighbours who had health issues.
In some parts of the province people were told that if they needed emergency assistance and their phones weren’t working to go to their nearest fire department.
Meanwhile, others took the outages in stride, saying it meant people would actually have to talk to one another as opposed to being tied to their cellphones.
The vestibule where the ATM machine is located in the Royal Bank in Yarmouth was quite full last week during the cellular disruption. Not all ATMs worked at all banks.