It’s been ten months since forest fires tore through our community of Fort McMurray, and yet some days, it feels like just yesterday that almost everyone in our city had to pack up and get out within minutes, joining the long line of cars and trucks heading for safety down Highway 63.
At the same time that almost everyone was evacuating, more than 100 of my TELUS colleagues made their way into Fort McMurray to keep our communications network up and running.
In so many ways, our technicians are the backbone of our business. They spend most days ensuring that you don’t notice them, as they focus on ensuring reliability and excellent network service. Their great work maintaining our network everyday, however, is magnified during a devastating event like the Fort McMurray fires. Suddenly a routine trip to check on a cell tower becomes a risky drive chaperoned by emergency response crews. During these major events, we know we’re doing what’s best for the community by keeping vital communication lines open – whether it’s ensuring that firefighters on the ground can communicate with the helicopter and water bomber crews in the sky, or that residents can communicate with their loved ones to let them know they’re safe. Our network supports the most critical human connections, especially in the most trying times.
I had the opportunity to thank our Fort McMurray team for keeping everyone connected in this blog post last year.
Last week we were recognized by the New York-based Disaster Recovery Institute (DRI) International, with the international Response and Recovery of the Year award. This honour not only acknowledges our team’s ability to effectively maintain our networks during an emergency, it also highlights our commitment to caring for the citizens of Fort McMurray. In total, our team contributed $1.2 million towards the recovery effort, and more than 100,000 days’ worth of volunteering. Our team’s commitment and perseverance under incredibly difficult circumstances, was steadfast:
- Our technicians drove straight into the fires, putting themselves in danger to refuel generators that kept our cell phone towers operating
- Connected the Emergency Management Operations Centre (EMOC) and emergency hospital, ensuring the experts had the phones and Internet connection to do their jobs
- Visited each evacuation centre to drop off 1,400 cell phones for evacuees who may have misplaced theirs, and brought in mobile charging stations to keep everyone’s phones charged, making sure no one missed the opportunity to connect with loved ones to let them know they were safe
- Our Community Ambassadors donated 1,200 emergency hygiene kits and TELUS stuffed animals to provide a sense of comfort to families who had to leave everything behind
To say I am proud of our team for their response in my home community is an understatement, and I hope this international recognition reminds them just how appreciated they are. For me, this award is an honour, and is just as meaningful as the hugs and thank-you’s I’ve received from my Fort McMurray neighbours in the last 10 months.
Fort McMurray is still rebuilding, and we are steadfast in our commitment to be there every step of the way. Our support for the community has only grown over the last 10 months, as TELUS team members from all across the country have volunteered their time and effort to help rebuild our community even better than it was before. It was through that spirit of volunteerism that we began working with FUSE Social, a local non-profit that has been designated by municipal officials to organize and support all fire related volunteer efforts in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Through our newly established partnership, TELUS and Fuse Social have joined together to match volunteers with local organizations in the community where they can make a difference through our recently launched Mac the Monkey Campaign. Together, we continue to be Fort McMurray strong.