When inches of ice and snow built up on the Copper Mountain microwave relay site – the site that provides phone and Internet service to the entire B.C. northwest coast, TELUS crews responded with creativity, ensuring service was maintained for those already enjoying the 2011 holiday season.
The four-storey structure was hit by extreme winter weather in the week before Christmas. This unprecedented weather damaged both the primary and backup radio antennae, leaving the backup system offline and the primary system at risk of imminent failure. And the weather only continued to worsen, making a service outage to more than 5,000 households a very real possibility. The area at risk ranged from the Alaska border down to the Queen Charlottes all the way to Bella Bella near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Given the extent of damage and challenging conditions, an outage could have lasted for days or even weeks.
Despite the season and situation, TELUS crews responded with considerable expertise, and were able to maintain service except for one brief outage on December 23. Network Maintenance and Tower crews from the National Service Infrastructure Support (NSIS) and Wireless Engineering Operations and Implementation National teams worked to expedite repairs and maintain service.
Crews drove several hours on Sno-Cats into the remote site to repair the damaged microwave station, replacing damaged components and chipping inches of ice off the three metre-wide dishes and other equipment, often in blizzard conditions. Due to short days and extreme weather, crews slept in the well-outfitted structure to maximize the time they could spend on repairs rather than travel. Crews also rerouted as much service as possible to an alternative fibre optic route thanks to a relationship with CityWest.
When service went down on the December 23, TELUS technicians on site determined that removing the snow buildup might restore the signal temporarily until repairs could be completed. They worked their way up the ice-covered 30-foot tower, cut a hole in the bottom of the antenna and cleaned out the snow inside. As a result, service returned for our customers in this vast region of the province.
Because of the incredible efforts and dedication of the entire team in the area, in addition to an NSIS facility design and provisioning team based in Edmonton who worked late nights and over Christmas to migrate traffic to the new fibre facilities, the risk to our customers passed.
During that challenging holiday week, TELUS crews volunteered to leave their families and stay overnight on a remote mountaintop, even on Christmas night. Some team members volunteered to drive overnight to deliver necessary equipment while others worked to reroute circuits around the clock.
With potential service losses affecting the Coast Guard, RCMP, health authorities, multiple First Nations communities, NavCanada and the Department of National Defence, crews never lost sight of their true focus – our customers.