Homeland Security and Public Safety

Recovery Solution Helps Hospital During Telephone System Failure

Cyberattack sacks hospital telephone system but only temporarily thanks to redundancy.

In January a doctor from St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City responded to a page from the hospital. When he tried to respond and call into the hospital he found that he couldn’t. Minutes later the hospital realized the telephone network was down — incoming calls weren’t making it through.

Luckily St. Mark’s had built redundancy into the system with Telecom Recovery’s VoiceShield service and was able to fix the problem within five minutes.

Twice more during the year the phone system went down, once from what is thought to have been a cyberattack, and each time the hospital mitigated the problem quickly with the backup system.

“The main issue we ran into with physicians was that they were unable to call their orders into the hospital,” said John Jones, safety officer for St. Mark’s. “It was a big deal. If we lose inbound calls it’s tough to recover those.”

The cyberincident began with a strange phone call, according to Shane Heaps, a maintenance engineer in the plant operations department at St. Mark’s. “Somebody requested the number from long distance. We programmed it, dialed it to test it, received this strange noise coming over the line and lost all ability to dial out of the hospital.”

Heaps said they soon activated the recovery service and were able to make outgoing calls. The service allows the hospital to reroute the calls through alternate phones or satellite phones. The hospital has used VoiceShield for three years, but the satellite option was added on more recently.

The system costs $11,000 per year and is paid for through Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response grants.

Jim McKay  |  Editor

Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management. He lives in Orangevale, Calif., with his wife, Christie, daughter, Ellie, and son, Ronan. He relaxes by fly fishing on the Truckee River for big, wild trout. Jim can be reached at jmckay@emergencymgmt.com.