Canadian Telcom Problems : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

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Canada Blitzed By Phone, System Disruptions 11.27 a.m. ET (1527 GMT) July 16, 1999

TORONTO  Communications and emergency systems across Canada were severely disrupted Friday following a three-alarm fire at a Bell Canada phone equipment center in Toronto.

According to news reports, the outage knocked out a vast number of services in certain areas, including 911 emergency systems, phone lines, cell phones and bank machines. Eyewitnesses said telephone lines in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto were affected. Bell was trying to bring in a mobile system to restore service, said a local television service.

-- Roland (, July 16, 1999


I live 75 miles north of Toronto. Hubby just came back from the bank, grocery store and gas station. The Bank is dead-in-the-water. No computers, no phones. Hubby left the cheque he was depositing with the teller, and she said she'd call him when she could give him a receipt. Fortunately, we're well known here, and the gas station just told him to come back and pay when things are back to normal. There were apparently lots of out-of-towners at the gas station wanting to gas up for the trip back to Toronto, but couldn't use their credit cards. Things were beginning to get ugly with a few of them. And this is after only an hour or two of problems!!!!

Lady at the grocery store couldn't use her ATM card, had no cash. She was furious at the clerk!!

The news reports say the phones and internet service are out in Toronto. Obviously, they're still working up here. We have to go to the Toronto airport to pick up a friend at 6pm today. I have no idea whether the airport will be operating without phone lines.....I believe Air Traffic Control needs phone lines, but I'm not sure.

Still no word on what caused the fire......

-- Sheila (, July 16, 1999.

GEEZ - Seems so many failures lately have had back-up generator problems!!! - nuke plant, water systems, waste-water, etc.

The fact that bank machines go down with phone systems is pretty problematic, eh?

Explosion shuts down phones in Toronto CBC: WebPosted Fri Jul 16 12:13:14 1999

TORONTO - Phones stopped ringing in several major cities in Canada on Friday after an explosion caused a major system failure at Bell building in Toronto.

The failure knocked out phone lines, most cell phones, and bank machines in downtown Toronto. Cantel and digital cell phones appear to be working.

Police report 911 emergency systems are working, but the police are urging people to use these systems only for real emergencies.

The failure was caused by a major explosion at the downtown bell centre at around 8:00 am in which one person has been injured.

Immediately after the explosion, battery powered backup systems kicked in. But they ran out of power a few hours later.

The Toronto Stock Exchange has suspended trading and much of business in the downtown core of Toronto has ground to a halt.

Phone systems in Ottawa and Montreal and as far away as Halifax and Vancouver have also been affected as calls that normally routed through Toronto are rerouted through other cities.

Bell Canada says it's trying to get services restored, but there's no word on when that might happen. bell990716

-- Cheryl (, July 16, 1999.

From Yahoo news... <:)=

TORONTO (Reuters) - Communications across Canada were thrown into disarray Friday following an early morning explosion and three-alarm fire at a Bell Canada phone service center in downtown Toronto.

The outage affected a large number of services, including telephone lines, cell phones, bank machines and Internet lines. In Toronto, 911 emergency lines were disrupted.

Eyewitnesses reported communications disruptions in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto and as far afield as Halifax and Vancouver.

Bell Canada said technicians were back on-site and the company, Canada's largest telephone carrier and a unit of BCE Inc., hoped to have service restored around 1300 EDT/1700 GMT.

Authorities were asking Toronto-area residents not to use 911 emergency phone lines unless it was a matter of life or death. Some bank branches and automatic teller machines were out of action in downtown Toronto.

``There are phones in downtown Toronto and surrounding areas that have been affected,'' Bell Canada spokeswoman Ann Mahdy told Reuters at the scene.

Bell Canada declined to give any further details about the disruptions.

Firefighters were called at 0726 EDT/1126 GMT to respond to a ninth-story blaze at a Bell Canada facility after an explosion on the fourth floor, a fire official told Reuters at the site.

Fourteen fire trucks and about 75 firefighters responded to the call. What caused the explosion and fierce blaze is still unknown.

A 54-year-old electrician, earlier believed missing, was found and rushed to a Toronto hospital but his condition was not known, a fire official said. The blaze was under control by 1016 EDT/1416 GMT, he added.

The fire official said the communications problems did not begin until around 1100 EDT/1500 GMT.

The extent of the damage at the phone center was unknown, the firefighter added. The incident is being investigated as a workplace mishap, said Staff Sgt. John Sillaots of Toronto police.

The Toronto Stock Exchange, Canada's largest, was affected as some securities firms had problems trying to place orders and trade through the systems. But the exchange decided to stay open after considering whether to shut down for the rest of the day.

-- Sysman (, July 16, 1999.

I see one piece of good news here. The power didn't go out did it? Hadn't we heard that the electric companies and the telcos depend on each other and that if one went out the other would? Telcos don't usually go out when power goes out because they have backup power (for a while at least), but here telephone service went out with no resulting loss of power. Right? Don't the SCADA systems require telephone lines? Maybe it is a separate system. Can anyone help out the clueless here?

-- Linda (, July 16, 1999.

I can give a man-on-the-spot report.

Yes, there was disruption but it was not as bad as some media outlets portrayed it.

My wife works in Toronto's financial district and she told me that their phone lines were fine but that their ISP was down and that the fax line was "unreliable" (i.e. sometimes worked, sometimes didn't).

We live about 6 miles from the building that had the explosion but had no problems with our home phone lines.

I was in a town about 50 KM north of Toronto at lunch-time and none of the merchants at the local mall were able to use their credit card POS terminals. They all dial in to downtown Toronto numbers (where all the major banks - we only have 5 - have their credit card data centres) and the numbers they were dialing were obviously in the affected area. Curiously though, one of the stores that I own which is about 60 KM northwest of Toronto had no problems with their POS terminal. Strange.

Contrary to media reports, the TSE did not shut down. Volume was quite a bit lower, but they did continue to trade all day.

Most of the affected area of downtown Toronto had phone service restored by 5.30pm (the explosion was at 7.30 am).

The interesting part of this story for me was that battery backups were in use. I thought that for important areas like this they would have diesel backups. What remains to be seen is the actual damage the explosion caused. Media reports have indicated that quite a lot of the phone service was restored by "by-passing" the building affected by the explosion. Backup power may have been a moot point if switches had actually been "blowed up".

If I hear anything of interest from the local media I will post it.

-- Johnny Canuck (, July 16, 1999.

One further point for Linda. You are correct in stating that the power did not go out.

However, there are no generating stations in downtown Toronto (the closest is probably the Lakeview coal plant in Mississauga about 20 KM west of downtown). It is unlikely that their telecom systems would have been affected by today's problem.

Incidentally, it is a good thing the power didn't go out. It is HOT here today - almost nudged 100F on my thermometer at the house.

-- Johnny Canuck (, July 16, 1999.

Backup generator kicked in right after the explosion. But firefighters shut them down for fear of more explosions. The CBC reporter Ben Chin did mention that this incident give thoughts to what could happen in Y2K.

-- A Torontonian (, July 16, 1999.

"A Torontonian"

Thanks for the update. I hadn't seen the CBC report you mentioned.

I'm not sure how far we can stretch this to a Y2K analogy. If the power does fail on 2000-01-01 (which is unlikely given Ontario Hydro's remediation and testing efforts) then the backup generators will be able to kick in unimpeded.

The chance that a Y2K problem will cause an explosion *of the type that happened today* is pretty remote.

-- Johnny Canuck (, July 16, 1999.

One news report blamed it on a worker. Where have I heard that before? All 1-800- numbers from across the country that were routed through TO were shut down. So was Ticket Master.

-- Rachel Gibson (, July 17, 1999.

How it was reported by the Electronic Telegraph: =99999999&pg=/et/99/7/17/wcan17.html

Telephone blast hits Canadian banking

By Fred Langan, in Toronto

CANADA'S banking system and the Internet were badly hit yesterday after an explosion and fire at a Toronto telephone switching centre.

The explosion, which injured one telephone company worker, was within blocks of the country's top five banks. It caused disruptions as far away as Vancouver, 2,000 miles to the west. Some bank machines in Ottawa, 300 miles away, were not working.

The largest Internet service in the country was shut down and, in addition to bank machines, telephone banking in many parts of the country stopped. Telephone calls to Asia were also affected.

The Toronto Stock Exchange considered closing, but stayed open. "Our systems are fine and we're operating normally," said Steve Kee, of the Toronto Stock Exchange. "It's our members who are having problems accessing the information they need for trading."

Many offices closed early, especially bank branches whose alarm systems stopped working.

-- Old Git (, July 17, 1999.

I found it very interesting that the CBC report included a short 2K blurb to the effect that although this accident was not in any way related to Y2K, it is a great example of the "so-called 99% rule", to wit that even if 99% of all systems are working fine, the 1% can cause huge havoc, including a cascade effect that can close down many of the working systems. This is not a comment I'd be surprised to see, here, but hearing/seeing it on the national news was a slight shock. Awareness is apparently more common than I had thought - now if only those who are aware will prepare NOW rather than in December...

-- Tricia the Canuck (, July 17, 1999.

At my office in Edmonton, Alberta, the e-mail system was sporadically non-functional for most of the day due to the fire. It affected my work, although we had work-arounds. Interconnected across the country!

-- Lois Knorr (, July 17, 1999.

Hi, Tricia,

The guy getting into the y2k statements was a technology journalist interviewed by Chin. Both of those guys have obviously been doing their research. So has Terry Milewski, on the west coast...did you see his coverage of the B.C. Hydro test at Campbell River the night before? (The test failed while the camera was rolling!)

And, yes, Lois, its effects were felt in many small and wondrous ways. A credit card computer at a liquor store in Calgary also refused to function. You should have seen the long faces on their customers!

-- Rachel Gibson (, July 17, 1999.

I missed the news coverage of the BC hydro, but read about it in another thread, here. As for credit card machines failing, it hasn't been that long since there weren't any - is there some reason that retailers don't use the credit slips? I know they were still available last year at this time; the home care company I did summer coverage for was using them. We didn't always have the slider thing to get the card imprint, so we just hand-printed the info. For items less than $100, we didn't need phoned confirmation, either. Those slips are something I'd want on hand for continued business in 2000, if I were a business owner.

-- Tricia the Canuck (, July 17, 1999.

Can someone point me towards the thread about the B.C. Hydro test at Campbell River?

-- RUOK (, July 17, 1999.

Sorry, RUOK...don't think it's available online...tried to get a transcript last year of an excellent CBC Ottawa report on the rising incidence of electrical fires in automobiles; after much digging around in their site all I could find was a snailmail purchase of hardcopy transcript for $14. Maybe someone else has had better luck than I; if so, I'd be interested in their answer.

Tricia, swipe machines are not even necessary...all you need is a hard surface and a pencil to get the numbers transferred to a slip. Then, of course, fill in the rest of the data by hand. But, it slows down the vendor, plus they don't get that instant verification of card validity.

Don't think this would work with our favourite, debit cards, though.

-- Rachel Gibson (, July 17, 1999.

RUOK, I think the thread you want is labelled "Good news, bad news"

(Sorry, I don't do quick cliks.)

Right you are, Rachel. And I don't know how many merchants will accept credit at all, or for how long, come 2000.

-- Tricia the Canuck (, July 17, 1999.

Thanks, ladies!

Good news bad news

-- RUOK (, July 18, 1999.

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