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Alberta electrical explosion causes communications blackout

13 July 2012

An explosion in an electrical room at Shaw Communications’ headquarters in Calgary led to a communications blackout across the city and surrounding districts on July 11. The blackout affected radio stations, internet services, hospital computers, government networks and some Shaw phone customers’ access to 911 services in the city’s core. 

Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said the outage started with a "flash incident." The building was evacuated and no one was hurt.

A fire broke out in a transformer on the 13th floor, but as the backup system came on, the sprinklers took it down. "Water and electricity aren’t a good combination," Bissonnette said.

Earlier in the day, city officials activated the municipal emergency plan while gauging the magnitude of the service outages and their ramifications.

"Shaw is a very large telecommunications company," said Calgary Emergency Management Agency director Bruce Burrell. "We’ve had an electrical explosion in one of their buildings and it has disabled that particular building. That building is a hub of information for a number of clients, not just in the city of Calgary, but some of them are provincial and some, in fact, are national."

Bissonnette said phone service was lost for about 4,000 residential and 16,000 business customers in downtown Calgary.

Alberta Health Services said that several of the medical board’s administrative and clinical information systems were hit by the outage.

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