Thousands of Cayman residents came back to their workplaces after the Easter holiday to find a crisis of sorts when they tried to use their telephones.
A critical piece of equipment at Cable & Wireless malfunctioned, resulting in a disruption of telecommunication services for basically the entire workday.
The situation probably brought back memories of the days immediately following Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 when communications were spotty at best.
There’s an old adage that suggests you never know what you have until you lose it, and it’s safe to say that most people take telecommunications in this day and age for granted.
After Hurricane Ivan, all of Cayman’s telecom companies scrambled to improve their disaster plans to ensure that another hurricane would not cause the same kind of problems.
However, as Tuesday taught us, it does not take a hurricane or some other kind of disaster to cause a major disruption in telecommunications services. All it takes is the failure of an important piece of equipment.
It shouldn’t come as a complete shock. Anyone who has ever owned electronic items knows they break down eventually. The problem is that the more we rely on technology, the more susceptible we are to its failures.
Some businesses and public entities were ready for Tuesday’s problems and some were not.
But just as there were lessons to be learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, there are lessons we can learn from the trouble this week.
For instance, there is already talk that the other telecommunications companies might form an alternative interconnection link separate of Cable & Wireless.
Merchants who found themselves unable to make credit or debit card sales to customers will have to consider back-up communication routes, as will companies in the financial industry who were unable to communicate with their clients in other countries.
Back-up telephone numbers for critical emergency services were distributed relatively quickly, but what if there had been an emergency before the back-up numbers had been announced? Perhaps back-up numbers need to be published in advance of a disaster or technological failure in the future.
For most residents, Tuesday’s outage was merely an inconvenience. But for those who lost sales or clients as a result, it was more serious. Had someone not been able to contact the right people in the case of an emergency, it could have been a matter of life and death.
Hopefully everyone will learn lessons from Tuesday’s events in order to mitigate the likelihood and effects of any such a breakdown in the future.