Montreal police, firefighters concerned by emergency communications outage

The unions representing Montreal police and firefighters are sounding the alarm after the City of Montreal's emergency telecommunications system was down on Monday for two hours.

Technical problems affected city-wide network for 2 hours on Monday

A Montreal police officer checks her cell phone. The police brotherhood is concerned about the state of the city's emergency telecommunications system. (Radio-Canada)

The unions representing Montreal police and firefighters are sounding the alarm after the City of Montreal's emergency telecommunications system was down on Monday for two hours.

It was the second outage for the city-wide emergency radio network, known as SERAM, in less than a week.

The City of Montreal has spent $70 million on the system. It has been in operation since 2014.

But the unions representing the city's police officers and firefighters have not been impressed and have lodged a complaint with the workplace health and safety board.

Chris Ross, vice-president of the firefighters' union, said they had to use cell phones to send information back to the communications centre.

He said the system has been beset by problems since the beginning.

"Almost immediately, they started to have problems with it to the point where we had to pull it out of service," he said. 

We've had some recurring issues with it.- Chris Ross, VP of Montreal's firefighters' union

"And it was brought back in almost a year later, and in the past couple of months that it's been online we've had some recurring issues with it, including twice in the past week where it's crashed. Each time we're explained that it was sort of a freak of nature, and that it won't happen again. And a few days later it happens again."

On Monday, the technical problems started around 12 p.m. and service came back around 2 p.m., according to the city.

"The outage took place during work that was underway on the network by the provider," Valérie De Gagné, a spokesperson for the City of Montreal, said in a statement.

"Not in any moment was the safety of citizens ever in jeopardy."

De Gagné said the city is taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Quebec courts were also paralyzed due to an unrelated computer outage during the day.