Yukon emergency services left to scramble after outage

Thursday morning’s massive telecommunications outage in Yukon sent emergency services scrambling for solutions as to how to help citizens in need.

The outage knocked out 911 service and left people in the territory with no way to contact ambulance, fire or police.

Ambulances were posted on key streets all morning and firefighters stood by outside their hall as a sort of beacon in case of an emergency.

Fire chief Clive Sparks has been a firefighter for more than 40 years and can't remember this happening before.

“Concern, simply because people would not be able to contact us easily. So that was my first priority - to make sure that would happen. Most people know if they go bang on the door of the RCMP or the fire department or EMS somebody will come and help them,” said Sparks.

RCMP Sgt. Don Rogers said luckily, the incident happened on a bright, sunny day with few real problems.

Northwestel said its equipment failed at about 4 a.m. PT after a power failure. They’re still sorting out what happened.

“Over the next few days, the next week, we'll be going through a full network investigation. I can't give a specific technical reason why this happened or what the background is. I assume it is a serious issue we don't want to be repeated,” said Curtis Shaw, Northwestel's vice-president of marketing.

Service was mostly restored by 10 a.m. local time.

The outage also affected some services in Inuvik, N.W.T., and in Nunavut.

Most people on the street say it was an inconvenience at worst, but local businesses were among the most affected.

“A very large portion of our business is debit and credit and when that goes down, especially during rush hour, it is very, very difficult to do business. Without phone lines we couldn't do our ordering this morning, so it's creating a lot of chaos for sure,” said Doug Terry, who owns Tim Hortons in Whitehorse.

Debbie Kennedy, visiting from Ontario, was frustrated because she couldn't deal with a family issue back home.

“I don't know too many in the community other than my son who's working… so not even being able to keep connection with him, not knowing anybody else in the town, I was sort of at my wit's end, but all is good,” she said.

For others, the communication outage was a little holiday.

“It's kind of nice to be disconnected to be honest." said Whitehorse resident Leigh Adamsky, "Sometimes, I don't know, as much as I like being in touch with everyone it's kind of nice - you can't contact me, you don't have to be worried about anything today,”

One Whitehorse coffee shop, unable to process debit payments, took a few old fashioned written IOU's from some temporarily cashless customers.

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