Fire in Calgary Shaw Building Disrupts Communications, More

Once again, we are reminded that disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. On July 11, 2012, a fire broke out in a transformer on the 13th floor of the Calgary Shaw building and triggered the sprinklers. The ensuing downpour disabled the building’s backup system and caused a power outage throughout the building that affected businesses and individuals throughout Calgary and the province of Alberta. Everyone was evacuated and no one was injured or killed. Calgary businesses didn’t fare as well.

Because the building not only houses Shaw Telecommunications’ offices but also hosts a “major hub for data transmission and server capacity” for companies and government agencies in Alberta and throughout Canada, according to the Calgary Sun, the incident’s repercussions have affected more than a few.

In fact, approximately 20,000 business and residential cable, telephone and Internet users lost their services almost immediately. Water from the sprinklers penetrated lower floors and disrupted the networks of other data companies’ clients. Cellular carriers, transportation systems, banking services and health care organisations were all affected. The affected health care organisations had to return to using paper forms instead of relying electronic health records, but they continued treating patients.

The resulting power outage forced radio stations 770 CHQR, Country 105 and Q107 off the air, damaged Calgary’s 311 information and complaint line, and prevented Shaw customers in the city’s core from dialing 911, reported the Calgary Sun.

IBM Canada, which has offices in the Shaw building, was also affected. A spokesperson for the company could provide no estimate for how long it would take to restore services to affected IBM customers.

The fire department provided an emergency generator to get the building’s power going again so that Shaw executives could assess the damage and determine how to go about getting networks back online.

How many of the affected businesses had established disaster recovery plans? How damaging will the disruption of business be to those companies that didn’t have disaster recovery plans already in place?

No one could have predicted that a fire would break out in the Shaw building or that water from the sprinklers would damage businesses on lower floors. But heavy winds can lead to downed power lines, as can severe rain storms, which happen in most places. The old saying, “expect the unexpected” definitely applies to these types of situations.

Could your business have kept going if its offices had been housed in the Shaw building? Or would you have to call your clients and explain to them why you couldn’t provide them with their usual services because the building where your offices are located suffered a power outage?