Most people in the U.S. have likely have heard about the massive bombing in Nashville on Christmas Day. Fortunately, human injuries were minimal—only the perpetrator died and three people were injured.
However, according to the Tennessean, the blast damaged dozens of buildings and residences and stopped air traffic when the Nashville International Airport lost internet service. Additionally, the incident disrupted thousands of people’s jobs and lifestyles in Nashville and across the southeast, as telecom services went down or became unreliable for four days.
The X2nSat team reviewed the case in detail to learn more about its impact. Our goal is to continuously improve business continuity and disaster recovery planning so that our clients are better prepared for human-caused incidents like a communications blackout.
Why? The question everyone was asking.
Although authorities did not release the bomber’s intentions, it seems clear he meant to injure AT&T. He parked an explosive-laden RV directly in front of AT&T’s 15-floor Main Central Office in a busy restaurant district in downtown Nashville. This facility is a critical hub for communications links to Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
The targeted building is only about 400 feet away from another well-known AT&T building in Nashville—a 19-story office tower and skyscraper (Tennessee’s tallest).
The bomber was an IT person said to be paranoid about 5G wireless. He likely was well aware of both buildings and understood the smaller central office’s critical role in cellphone service. Although he failed to destroy the vital facility, he caused widespread damage, set it ablaze and knocked out its commercial power. This led to a communications blackout, an inability to communicate due to the loss of power at a communications facility.
Local damage was extensive, and communications were disrupted up to 200 miles away
The explosion caused widespread damage to the neighborhood, affecting 1,200 employees, 400 residents and 45 businesses. On January 5, Former President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the area.
The communications blackout, including long-distance, internet and cellular services, affected Tennessee as far as Knoxville, 190 miles east, and neighboring states. Public authorities in the region scrambled because FirstNet services also failed. FirstNet is a dedicated system for priority service for 911 centers and safety and medical responders. Officials in Alabama and other states reported having to resort to two-way radios.
Fires and extensive building damage delayed restoration
AT&T began restoration immediately by bringing in mobile cell towers and emergency power generators. However, repairing the central office could not start until fires were under control and new holes were drilled into the building to replace burned power cables. Four days transpired until Monday, December 28, when AT&T announced it had restored nearly all services and permanent repairs to the building were underway.
The bombing and subsequent communications blackout prompted new concerns about the security and resilience of the nation’s telecom infrastructure. Governmental and telecom experts said the public doesn’t understand that single points of failure still can undermine telecom reliability. These concerns may join cybersecurity as another critical challenge facing the incoming administration.
Lessons for businesses and organizations
This and other incidents show that organizational leaders cannot assume that communications networks are failure-proof and that providers can guarantee continuous operations.
X2nSat recommends that executives review their business continuity plans to assess whether they need further strengthening:
- Complete a thorough assessment of the risks to the organization’s connectivity in today’s environment.
- Identify methods to add redundancy using alternate, failover and backup solutions.
- Prepare comprehensive disaster recovery plans and practice them before an incident occurs.
Threats have always existed, but old ones may be increasing and new ones emerging
Natural disasters have always been prominent reasons for business continuity planning. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes and landslides are some of the first things in mind. But, the evidence is growing that climate change is amplifying weather and climate-related perils. Last year’s hurricane season and extended wildfires are two prime examples.
Technical errors and human mistakes are ever-present risks in complex technologies and can lead to extended outages. Some recent highly visible examples are technical problems at T-Mobile in June and CenturyLink in August 2020.
Human-caused disasters are also constant threats, but fortunately only rarely experienced. However, they may need to receive higher priority with the growing incidences of riots and civil disorders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the social, political and racial unrest.
Other recent social changes have potentially significant impacts on organizational risks, such as:
- Remote work. How has working from home changed the company’s risk profile? Does decentralization create new imperatives for managing continuity?
- The economy. What are the implications of a worsening economy? Will insider crime, theft, sabotage and other risks increase as people become more desperate financially?
X2nSat should be part of your business continuity and communications blackout plans
Disaster recovery organizations have used satellites for decades to restore connections to areas hard hit by hurricanes, tornados, floods and other large disasters. Satellites have proven their value as daily links to remote facilities by natural resources, transportation, energy and other companies.
Many organizations use satellites for diverse, hot-standby links to keep data centers, warehouses, call centers, and government and healthcare facilities online during commercial network outages. Satellite mobile voice and internet services also offer excellent solutions for supporting engineering, construction and transportation operations in rural areas.
Contact us at X2nSat for expert advice on how satellites can play a vital role in helping you maintain your connectivity needs during a communications blackout.