Bulletin / Armageddon avoided...

Armageddon avoided

Author: Charlie Maclean-Bristol

This week Charlie talks about the impact of the loss of telecoms.

As we have seen from photographs there has been another huge rainstorm and more flooding in the Carlisle area. Invariably there will be some lessons learned which we can share from this, however I am not sure what else we can say in this blog about flooding. It is interesting, after the recent bulletin on resilience, that we have flooding in an area which has had £40m spent on flood defences after the last series of serious floods. How much resilience is enough resilience, as the flood defences were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of rain.

This week I would like to talk about an incident that happened during the summer; the lessons learned from which I am only seeing now. It concerned a rural area of the UK which had just short of five and a half hour loss of telecoms in July. It is not surprising that telecoms occasionally do fail but what astounded me was the widespread impact on the community and the potential impact the loss of telecoms could have had. The outage happened over a weekend in the middle of summer and there were no emergency calls but if the incident had happened at a different time the impact might have been much greater.

Some of the impacts caused by the incident were: 

  1. The public telephone network went down
  2. Some of the mobile operator’s networks went down - only one remained active
  3. The 999 system didn’t work 
  4. Emergency services airwave system didn’t work in all areas but worked in some
  5. The Coastguard lost VHF coverage and could make maritime distress calls in the local area
  6. The local airport was closed due to loss of radio communications with planes
  7. Broadband worked only with some providers
  8. Telecare system, which monitors drugs, blood pressure, opens doors and
    provides other medical interventions for the elderly and vulnerable, was not working as the phone system was down.
  9. Only some of the ATM, credit and debit card systems worked
  10. 999 automatic roaming on mobile phones didn’t work
  11. Search and rescue helicopter couldn’t communicate with the airport
  12. Coastguard could not be contacted
  13. Alarms and personal security alarms would not have worked
  14. Lift alarms and means for those trapped in a lift to call for help wouldn’t have worked
  15. Entry systems connected to the telephone system didn’t work

I was amazed at the extent of the impact of the loss of telecoms could have on the whole community. Luckily in this incident there was very little impact but it could have been much worse. In London earlier this year, there was an incident in Holburn where a fire in a tunnel took out a large number of telephone and data lines. Also, several years ago there was a similar major incident in Manchester which took out the telecoms of a large number of call centres.

So, do you understand the impact of the loss of telecoms within your organisation? Which parts of your infrastructure are connected or monitored through telephone lines?

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