A 12-hour internet outage in Yukon added challenges for emergency officials | CBC News

Yukon emergency officials say a 12-hour outage in Yukon’s communications system on Wednesday made it a “difficult” day, but they were able to keep people informed of emergencies.

Internet service was halted across the territory and some of northern British Columbia at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, after what Northstyle calls “significant land erosion” damaging the fiber line connecting the Yukon to the south.

This damaged line has disrupted banking and business, and has caused headaches for communities and residents trying to keep up with conditions for wildfires, floods, highway closures and evacuation alerts in effect.

Service was restored around 9pm on Wednesday.

Phone service, including local and long-distance calls, and 911 service were not affected by the outage.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Northwestel blamed the problem on a damaged fiber line in northern British Columbia, “caused by significant land erosion.”

The company did not provide any other details, including whether the damaged line was in the same area where the main drift – due to the breakage of the beaver dam – swept part of the Alaska Highway last week.

The Yukon’s Internet connection to the outside world relies on a single fiber line along the Alaska Highway. The line has been damaged before, causing similar, hours-long disruptions to telecommunications in the Yukon and northern British Columbia. Another outage of about 12 hours occurred a little over a year ago.

An exposed portion of the Northwestel fiber line next to the Alaska Highway, seen here in 2015. The line is the only one connecting the Yukon to the south, and was damaged before causing a hours-long outage similar to Wednesday. (Devon Golubeck)

Kat Hallett, of Yukon’s Department of Protective Services, said Wednesday’s disruption made it more difficult for emergency officials to keep people informed of area wildfires and evacuation alerts. Dozens of new fires have been ignited by lightning strikes in recent days, and there were 136 active fires in Yukon as of Wednesday. Many communities are subject to evacuation alerts, and some highways have also been closed.

“We had a very challenging day yesterday,” Hallett said.

She says emergency officials have a “huge toolbox” when it comes to communications, but in recent years they have been using social media more and more to keep people informed of emergencies.

“This is a really great tool when it works. But when it’s not working, we kind of have to focus and go back to some of the other methods that we still use on a regular basis,” she said.

On Wednesdays, that often meant going to the local radio with fire updates and survival information.

Mike Fancy, Yukon’s Prairie Fire Information Officer, said fire officials usually rely on the Internet “a lot.”

“It saves us from answering every single question over the phone,” he said.

Dempster line to help switch connections ‘smoothly’

“Yesterday’s situation really highlights how vulnerable we as a territory are to outages,” Priyank That, director of sustainable infrastructure for the Yukon Department of Highway and Public Works, said Thursday morning.

Work is still in progress on a new $70 million 800 km fiber-optic line between Dawson City, Yukon and Inuvik, northwest New York. This line will connect to an existing line connecting Inuvik to the south.

That said the Dempster line would therefore act as a backup so that service disruptions like Wednesday were no longer a “thing”. Once the Dempster line is up and running, the connections can “smoothly” switch if the Alaska High Speed ​​Fiber line is damaged.

“[We’ll] They have more reliable internet and mobile phone service, which is something people in the South take for granted because there are many redundant lines out there.”

Construction of the Dempster line began last year and is expected to be completed by 2024.

Tate says Wednesday’s power outage “once again reinforced the importance of this project to Yukoners”.

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