Hamilton man unable to call 911 during Rogers outage
July 13, 2022
HAMILTON, Ont. – Shane Eby’s aunt Linda died on Friday during the Rogers communications outage. He says his dad was unable to call 911 during the Canada-wide system failure that affected cellphone and other services. The Hamilton family is now in mourning after the Rogers outage that left the country reeling, and an expert says it’s evidence of the “fragility” of Canada’s networks.
Shane Eby (pictured) told CBC News that his father and aunt, Gregg and Linda Eby, who are siblings and both in their 70s, were out doing their weekly errands in the city’s core on Friday morning.
Shane said it was just past 10 a.m. ET when Gregg noticed Linda wasn’t feeling well and had her sit down in a parking lot near a bank.
“He could see she was in distress and needed help, more than what my father could offer her,” Shane said. His father then called on a security guard from the bank who also realized Linda was in trouble.
According to Shane, the next five to 10 minutes were brutal for his father. Without cellphone service, Gregg was “scrambling.”
Shane said his father and the security guard tried to flag down somebody nearby to help call 911 but couldn’t find anyone. “My father started running around the street past the parking lot trying to locate people,” Shane said. “He had to keep leaving her to try and find help,” he said, tearing up.
Shane said his father never found anyone with cellphone service, but eventually, first responders arrived. Shane believes the security guard may have been able to get help from someone in the bank or through a landline.
Dave Thompson, a supervisor with Hamilton Paramedic Service, told CBC Hamilton on Tuesday morning, that paramedics were notified of the call near James Street South and Main Street at 10:25 a.m.
He said they arrived four minutes after the call. He added paramedics had a defibrillator and used it immediately, but noted they include cardiac monitors and don’t look like standard defibrillators.
Shane said they revived Linda and took her to the hospital without Gregg. He said his dad couldn’t use his vehicle at the time because police considered it as part of a potential crime scene.
Once Gregg got to the hospital by taxi, Shane said he was “involved in the decision to take her off life-support.” Days after Linda’s death, the family is still trying to cope with her loss.
Shane said he never imagined people would ever have trouble getting in touch with emergency services.
He added that doctors at the hospital said Linda’s aneurysm likely would have been fatal even if Gregg had been able to call 911 right away. An aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel and can rupture and cause internal bleeding.
“That outage didn’t cause my aunt to die, but … every minute counts when something like that happens, and when it’s not available, it seems to be something that could be worked on,” said Shane.
Tony Staffieri, president and chief executive officer of Rogers, said the outage was caused by a network system failure following a maintenance update.
On Monday, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne convened a meeting of telecom CEOs, including Staffieri, to talk about ways to prevent similar service disruptions, and called on them to collaborate to bolster the resiliency of Canada’s cellular and internet networks.
As well, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre made a formal request to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to hold an inquiry into the outage.
Vass Bednar, McMaster University’s executive director of the master of public policy in digital society program, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that this outage shouldn’t be viewed as a “blip.”
Bednar said the outage put Canada “on the map in a humiliating and embarrassing way in terms of the fragility of our system and how interconnected it is, and that’s what’s leading people to kind of rethink it.”
The public needs and wants to be involved in conversations around telecom companies, she said.
“These services feel like they are now essential services and vital public infrastructure, but they’re controlled by private corporations.
“It’s not just that we might benefit from more robust competition in the space … people are frustrated and feel they are paying increasing prices for something that just keeps letting them down.”
Bednar said Rogers needs to give a full briefing of what caused the outage and what the company learned.
Shane said he hopes sharing his experience can help others and show telecom companies what’s at stake when their services don’t work.
“It’s not just about an economic transaction,” he said. “Life-and-death scenarios play out every day.”