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BT Auchenmalg Exchange Fire in Scotland Knocks Out Some 999 Calls

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 (1:03 pm) - Score 1,907

The Dumfries & Galloway Police have confirmed that a fire, which midday yesterday burned down BT’s Auchenmalg exchange in Scotland, also knocked out telephones, broadband (ADSL but not FTTC) and prevented fixed line calls to emergency services for those in the surrounding area. It could take “several days” to fix.

According to the police, the situation occurred in-between Port William & Glenluce and impacted customers in the immediate area of the exchange (i.e. the area along the A747 between Auchenmalg and Port William). “We are aware of the risks involved and have held multi agency meetings, where we have had some reassurances that vulnerable people are being cared for,” said the police (people within the associated communities were asked to check in with family and friends to ensure they are well).

Crucially mobile signals in this area were unaffected and the police said that “BT are dedicated to the fixing the problem and are deploying an emergency vehicle to try and boost Wi-Fi capability in the area.” The villages of Port William, Glenluce and Sandhead are already said to be “operating as normal again,” but the same is not true everywhere.

Mercifully the scale of the impact is small with only around 137 customers hit.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“A small number of people are without phone and broadband services following a fire on Monday at the Auchenmalg exchange [WSAUG] in Dumfries and Galloway. No one was injured by the fire and mobile networks are not affected. Engineers are assessing the damage and we are working with the emergency services and other partners to restore services as soon as possible.

A temporary mobile replacement exchange is on the way to Auchenmalg which will allow us to reconnect homes and businesses. BT has set up a major incident vehicle in Auchenmalg and we’re sending BT customers temporary mobile broadband dongles, where appropriate. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”

Ofcom expects operators to take sufficient measures to maintain “uninterrupted” telephone access to emergency services and so they seem likely to probe this incident at some point in the future.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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4 Responses
  1. Avatar Optimist

    How much extra would the 100 or so customers connected to this exchange be prepared to pay to maintain uninterrupted access to emergency services in the rare event of a fire? How would those unable to afford the higher phone bills contact the emergency services?

    • Avatar A_Builder

      That is already an historical BT USO obligation that exists.

      Hence why OR are jumping to mitigate and fix this ASAP.

  2. Avatar dragon

    It would be interesting to see what findings Ofcom come up with if any given it’s not really practical to connect everyone to 2 exchanges.

    I’d imagine it would be about the speed of getting the temporary equipment on-site needed to restore service, but it also depends on how damaged the cabling is.etec

    • Avatar 125us

      Force Majeure and all that. Things break. The requirement is to repair it as quickly as is reasonably possible and provide alternative means to contact the emergency services in the meantime. In the past that has taken the form of things like a caravan full of payphones connected to a distant exchange, handing out mobiles to people who don’t have one themselves or even having the police driving slowly round the town or village throughout the night and day.

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