People living in Flagstaff and other parts of Northern Arizona discovered just how much they depend on technology. A fiber optic cable was cut, supposedly cut by vandals leaving close to 70,000 residents without Internet, ATM services, cell service, cable television and not to mention the disruptions in 911 services, transactions at supermarkets, gas stations and the list goes on.
Stores immediately posted signs saying cash only, but people could not withdraw cash from ATM machines, and banks suffered as well because nearly every institution today relies on communication technology, which by the stroke of an ax or shovel was severed in the small town. It ended up a vicious circle of disruption that lasted for hours.
Students could not access online college courses and the so-called Internet Cafes suffered financial losses because people could not access free Wi-Fi, so why stick around and just drink coffee. It is not just about the coffee anymore.
Joseph Hobbs, an information technology consultant and contractor in the area explained why cell phone customers were experiencing problems as well.
“The information from a cell phone call is collected by cell towers and concentrated from low speed to high speed fiber optic carriers at various points” (Associated Press, 2015).
A person familiar with the situation stated that typically fiber optic cable is buried just two to four feet underground. Anyone knowing where to dig, and with a few rudimentary tools could uncover the cable and create an outage without much effort at all.
There seems to be no doubt in most people’s minds that this was an intentional act.
Next time it could be a larger city and regardless of size, disruptions in certain services such as 911 could create a life or death situation.
Was this situation a dry run, a test to gauge the response by the authorities, to see how long the services were disrupted? Did someone think that by cutting the services to the city that they could then waltz in and rob a bank or store and not have police respond, or was this a prelude to something bigger.
Did whoever cut the cable have a grudge against the provider or the city, was it an employee of the service provider, or was it an employee of the city for that matter. Was someone’s bill too high so they decided to cut the cord so to speak, or was this just a random act of vandalism.
It is hard to imagine someone or more than one person were out driving around and just decided to start digging, and then come upon a buried cable, and then deciding just hack it in two while they are at it, very hard to imagine. Someone had to know where to dig and had to know it was not a high voltage line before cutting it, it seems some planning went into this. Someone had prior knowledge and planned to cut the cable, someone set out that day to create havoc.
What is apparent is that we all are much too dependent upon technology. Store clerks are so accustomed to their machines that they may not have been able to do the simple math required to count change back when people pay with cash. People were literally in tears because of the disruption.
In today’s age of technology it defies logic that a person with a shovel and/or ax or even with a large knife could create such havoc for 70,000 plus people. It makes one wonder what could be next and will it be my town or your town, will it be my place of employment or my child’s school.
You Have To Be Prepared For Anything
Of course this will not be the last time. Until service providers whether they provide gas, water, electric or high speed Internet decides to step up their security it will happen again and possibly on a much larger scale with deadly consequences.
Next time it could be water main break, or someone could poison a water reservoir or decide to shoot up a power station and turn the lights out.
You cannot put all of your eggs in one basket. Even though debit cards are widely used as you can see they are no good however, when there is a disruption in communications. You cannot pump gasoline, cannot buy anything anywhere, and if you do not have cash then you go without until, and if the problem is fixed. Next time it could be days or even weeks.
Have enough supplies on hand so you do not have to rush to the bank or ATM machine to try and get cash only to find out they have failed as well. Make sure your vehicle is always topped off with fuel, and that you have enough food and water for short and long-term outages.
Some people if not many people simply cannot communicate without cellular service because they do not have landline service in their homes. People do their banking on smart phones, control their home security with smart phones and many alarm systems for homes and businesses today rely on cellular networks to alert the authorities when an alarm is triggered. Some people even control their entire businesses over the Internet and with cell phones and tablets. Even a short disruption creates major headaches for many people.
Be prepared to get along without the Internet, and cell service, and learn to carry some cash so when debit card transactions cannot be processed you can still put fuel in your car, and put food on the table. You know how to do it, but everyone is so accustomed to reaching for their phones, tablets and debit cards they have forgotten how to do without them, but you can, and you may have to in the very near future.
Associated Press. (2015). Retrieved 2015, from http://azdailysun.com/news/local/cut-cable-downs-internet-service-for-northern-arizona/article_904b4c69-c3d7-59ca-bc72-f8cb64313a29.html