Bell outage puts RCMP on the move

By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – The Guysborough detachment of the RCMP set up an impromptu office at Robin’s Donuts and Cook’s Gas Bar on Friday, August 4 when they discovered their cell phones and office landline were out of service due to a Bell Aliant infrastructure failure. Fraser Cook, proprietor of the donut shop/gas bar, spoke to The Journal on Tuesday about the incident.

“They had no (phone) service and I think the two members that were on duty just met here coincidentally and discovered that they were in the dark but that we still had our landline operational,” said Cook. Shortly after that one of the RCMP members approached Cook to request use of the phone at the business until the situation could be resolved.

While it became the punchline in the press and on social media, that police would set up temporary headquarters in a donut shop, Cook points out that his business is more than donuts. “The old coffee and donuts and RCMP stories; that isn’t really the case here...We are the only fuel site in town,” said Cook adding that the business is a main meeting point in the area.

Aside from the media attention the business has been getting, Cook said it was business as usual on Friday. “They (RCMP) were here for, I guess, the latter part of the morning until the afternoon when they shifted to the Municipal Building; a total of three or four hours...It was a pretty busy day and it went, for the most part, unnoticed.”

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Dal Hutchinson spoke to The Journal on Tuesday about last Friday’s telecommunications failure. “We experienced problems with landlines and cell phones across the province. This was a result of the problem Bell was experiencing...Some members in some areas were not able to communicate via landlines or cell phones. They were creative in these situations, as in Guysborough, where they went over to the gas station/Robin’s because they had a functioning phone.”

Cpl. Hutchinson added, “One of the great things is that our 911 system is on a system on its own. So it wasn’t impacted whatsoever. However, people, given the phone servers that were down, were unable to contact 911 the regular way that we are used to.”

To the best of Cpl. Hutchinson’s knowledge no RCMP service was delayed as a result of the phone outage. He stated that the RCMP will be in consultation with the provincial Emergency Management Office to look at possible steps to strengthen the system if such situations arise in the future.

Cpl. Hutchinson also said of the outage and the resulting problems, “It just shows how reliant we are on technology these days...This is something we need to think about outside the box, to prepare for ‘what if’, like what took place on Friday.” He suggests everyone always keep at least half a tank of fuel in the car and some cash money on hand.

That is a sentiment that the Warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, Vernon Pitts, shares. On Tuesday Pitts told The Journal, “People have to realize that there are emergency situations that will occur from time to time; we suggest people carry some cash at all times and have the necessities for 72 hours.”

Pitts also stated that he was satisfied with the local response to the situation on Friday. “Staff here in conjunction with the RCMP and EMO; they took steps to do what had to be done and weathered the storm quite alright.”