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Calgary deactivates emergency plan day after telecommunications meltdown

The Calgary skyline.


Officials in Calgary deactivated their municipal emergency plan on Thursday, saying 911 service was functioning normally again a day after a downtown fire and explosion at Shaw Communications headquarters.

But the situation remained far from normal for Shaw customers and anyone who required any sort of electronic records from the Alberta government.

"We've been working through the evening and early morning to evaluate the impact on the data centre to try to minimize the impact on services to citizens," Service Alberta Minster Manmeet Bhullar said in a news release.

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Services that remained unavailable included vehicle registration and licensing, student high school transcripts, land title searches and hunting and fishing licences. Provincial programs that provide income support and health benefits, such as payments to disabled Albertans, were also affected, although the province said emergency claims could still be processed in person.

No one was hurt when a blast in a 13th-floor electrical room on Wednesday brought down Alberta Health Services computers, put three radio stations off the air and affected some banking services.

Lines to many critical communications services, including 911, were interrupted or unavailable for Shaw customers on Wednesday and early Thursday. Calgary's municipal 311 information service was also affected. The city said Thursday that the line was fully operational again, although some city call centres were still experiencing service disruptions.

The city said Shaw was continuing to work with its phone and data customers to restore normal service.

The city also noted that some people had been tying up emergency operators by phoning 911 just to check if their service was working.

"While 911 service is now fully operational, we remind Calgarians that 911 should be used in emergency situations only," a city news release stated.

The building also houses three radio stations — CHQR, Country 105 and Q107 — and those stations were running programming from sister stations in Edmonton.

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IBM occupies a couple of floors in the building, according to fire officials, and their services were affected as well.

Bhullar said the Alberta government had decided to switch to service from its backup site based on how long it would likely be until power was restored to the Shaw building.

The department said that as soon as systems went down on Wednesday, it invoked its data emergency response plan. Information technology staff worked with IBM through the night on how to restore services.

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