Giving back

Emergency preparedness in our communities

Apr 21, 2020

TELUS does not just respond to emergencies – we prepare for them. There is work that goes on year-round to ensure we have network redundancy and robustness in place in the event of an emergency.

“When we receive a call from our Emergency Management Operating Committee (EMOC), our goal is to say ‘no impact’ when asked how things are going or what’s happened in a particular area,” says Parm Sandhu, Director, B.C. Network Assurance on our Network and Systems Operations Team. “With proper preparation, we’re able to fully assist our communities during a time of crisis.”

Planning ahead makes it easier to be prepared

Parm and his team work closely with other teams such as TELUS Event Management, Transport and Switching Operations, and IP Network Assurance and Integrity to build redundancy and robustness into our network system.

In addition, technicians on our Mission Critical Environment Team perform regular maintenance and repairs on HVAC units, generators and batteries to minimize the impact on communities so that phone and data services are available to our customers when needed. Together, these teams spend countless hours designing systems and analyzing maintenance programs to continuously strengthen our equipment for emergencies such as fire or flood.

Putting our work into action

In 2019, there were four significant events in which our EMOC Team was engaged to support efforts to safeguard our communities and our infrastructure.

Spring floods in Ontario and Quebec: 38 communities in Ontario and Quebec declared a state of emergency last spring when they were faced with severe flooding, forcing over 10,000 people to evacuate their homes. TELUS was quick to support response and recovery efforts through volunteer activities as well as in coordination with the provincial governments.

Alberta wildfires: during the wildfires that ravaged parts of northwestern Alberta in summer 2019, thousands of local residents were evacuated. During this catastrophic event, TELUS responded with a number of EMOC actions, which included deploying smarthubs at local and regional emergency operations centres to provide connectivity to emergency responders. We also deployed temporary cell sites to cover evacuation centres in Calling Lake, La Crete, and the province of Alberta’s emergency operations centre in High Level, and provisioned fibre to the Regional Emergency Operations Centre in Nordegg, Alberta.

Hurricane Dorian: on September 7, Dorian made landfall in Atlantic Canada as a category two hurricane. Dorian resulted in commercial power outages in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. At its peak, over 500,000 hydro customers lost commercial power, with approximately 145,000 TELUS, Koodo and Public Mobile wireless customers impacted.

Winnipeg storms: in October 2019, a winter storm consisting of heavy snow and strong winds caused widespread power outages in southern Manitoba resulting in lost power for over 39,000 customers. As a response, we formalized an engagement process with the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization to improve situational awareness and better align our mitigation, response and recovery activities. We also engaged multiple levels of government and telecom partners to align our response and recovery efforts.

Supporting our customers and communities

In all four emergencies, TELUS maintained critical lines of communication for our customers, team members and first responders, facilitating vital emergency response efforts and keeping communities connected with their loved ones. Our team members also worked around the clock to support additional services and resources, such as:

  • Contributing cash in-kind, including infrastructure enhancements

  • Providing comfort kits, phone chargers, and financial support to local registered charities helping with rebuilding efforts

  • Matching team members’ donations and encouraging our customers to give through in-store donations and text-to-donate

  • Waiving data overages for all mobility customers in the affected areas for a period of time

  • Upgrading public Wi-Fi services at evacuation centres

  • Providing satellite phones for emergency responders

  • Protecting our network in critical sites to ensure our customers stayed connected

  • Providing Cell on Wheels, mobile cell towers to augment wireless coverage and capacity, to key areas to enhance our mobile service

  • Upgrading network to support increased traffic in the area.

Relationships have been established with our partners to address future events where incidents involving our partners’ infrastructure subsequently impacts TELUS customers. Our industry-leading emergency response playbook, the efforts our team has put forth to prevent interruption to our services during emergencies, and our unwavering focus to support our communities are a testament to our people and our customers-first focus.