New Brunswick

911 disruption caused by software update to accommodate 10-digit dialing, Bell says

New Brunswick's 911 services were restored about an hour after reports of an outage came in.

People were told to call their local police station in an emergency

A closeup of a cellphone user dialling 911.
Emergency call service was working again at about 9 a.m. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

The Maritime-wide 911 services were down for two and a half hours Tuesday because of a software update gone wrong, according to Bell.

The emergency service was not available to landlines in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to around 8:30 a.m.

On Tuesday afternoon, Bell spokesperson Katie Hatfield said the root cause was a software update introduced at about 6 a.m. in preparation for 10-digit dialling in New Brunswick.

She said the update "triggered unexpected call-processing failures to 911," but had no effect on other types of calls.

New Brunswick is switching to mandatory 10-digit dialling on April 15. The change is happening as area code 428 is added to the province's phone system.

Hatfield said once Bell realized the issue, engineers rolled back the update to restore services.

"We have adjusted our processes and safeguards to ensure that this type of issue will not happen again, including adjusting our test plans for future updates," she said.

Hatfield said 911 outages are rare.

In the summer of 2020, a similar outage made 911 inaccessible for about 90 minutes in the Maritimes.

Hatfield said during Tuesday's outage, anyone with "wireless devices" could still access 911 because of a fall-back mechanism in the system, and people were asked to call local police stations in case of emergency.

An emergency alert was sent out about 911 disruptions in Nova Scotia, but not for New Brunswick.


Hadeel Ibrahim is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. She reports in English and Arabic. Email: