Bell Aliant phone service restored to P.E.I. and most N.S. customers

Widespread problems with telephone network service were reported across Nova Scotia and P.E.I. Thursday afternoon. Bell Aliant said at 10 p.m. it had restored service in P.E.I. and to most affected customers in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia's 211, 311, 411 information lines were also affected

Emergency crews were called to a small electrical fire at the Bell Aliant building on North Street in Halifax on Thursday afternoon. The fire caused a service outage for about 140,000 customers. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Phone service has been restored to most of around 140,000 Bell Aliant customers in Nova Scotia and P.E.I., who went without phones for almost seven hours Thursday.

Around 10 p.m. Bell Aliant confirmed landline phones were working again on P.E.I. and for most of Nova Scotia customers.

"Fewer than 1,000 customers remain affected in the Truro area. We expect their service to be fully restored during the evening," spokesperson Isabelle Boulet said in an email. "We thank our customers for their patience."

Service was knocked out following a minor fire at one of the company's buildings in Halifax on Thursday afternoon.

The fire started in the electrical room of the switch/relay building on North Street. There were no injuries reported, but the fire shorted some switches, causing widespread outages.

Landlines at Nova Scotia Health Authority hospitals were knocked out and pagers used by doctors on call were also not working, if the doctors were outside of the hospital, according to a health authority spokesman. 

Pagers within hospitals are working, as is communication with ambulances. The health authority recommends anyone who needs to call 911, use a cellphone to make the call.

A spokesman with the authority said there was no big impact to hospital services. 

Zach Churchill, minister for Communications Nova Scotia, said no 911 calls have been missed during the outage. 

"While the landlines were impacted, the system worked as planned. The alternate forms of communication came into place; there were no delays when it came to responding to 911 calls," Churchill said.

"I think Nova Scotians can take great comfort in the fact that system worked as it was supposed to. There was no disruption to the service." 

Nova Scotia's health information line, 811, was also affected for several hours. It came back online and was receiving calls around 8:30 p.m.

911 still working

The province's 911 service was never knocked out, said Tracy Barron at Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office, but people may have had trouble calling the emergency line if their phone service was down. 

Barron said dispatchers were able to relay emergencies to fire, police and EHS. In some cases, however, they had to resort to using cell phones or text messages. 

Reports of widespread problems with Bell's telephone network service started appearing on social media Thursday afternoon.

The province's 211, 311 and 411 information lines were also affected.

Police say do not call 911 to test the line.

Chuck Bezanson, the division 2 commander with Halifax Fire, said the damage to the Bell Aliant building was minor.

"One of the workers arced what's called a bus bar, which is a large metal bar across two terminals, and it caused a small fire and melted the metal," he said. 

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