Residents in a small New Brunswick community say they want to be brought into the 21st century as the town of Elgin has little to no cell service. The people there must rely on two-way radios and landlines.
“They just treat us like a bunch of country bumpkins — which I love being — but I want a cell phone,” explained Elgin resident Barbara Geldart.
The area is a hot-spot for outdoor enthusiasts, attracting hikers, snowmobile clubs, anglers and ATV riders.
When an emergency happens, there’s no easy way to dial 911.
Cindy Atkinson knows that first hand.
She broke her leg while snowmobiling on Boyd’s Mountain, a popular sledding trail near Elgin, in 2009. A member of her group had to locate a landline before they could even dial 911. Then it took two hours for emergency personnel to reach her.
“I had broke my leg in several places. It took me a few years, a few surgeries to overcome it,” Atkinson said.
“It was pretty terrifying when you’re up on the mountain in the middle of the night not knowing how you can get help.”
The town’s volunteer fire chief is lobbying the N.B. government to work with private carriers to find a solution that could mean the difference between life or death.
“It’s frustrating because many of our people are signed up to help people, so when you have barriers like that it’s frustrating. They want to get to them as fast as possible. They don’t want anyone suffering longer than they have to, ” said Volunteer Fire Chief Kent Steeves.
It’s an issue that’s left the small community wondering, what-if.
Elgin resident Eloise Benister said her uncle and husband work in the woods together and are often hard to reach. “They’re out in the woods all of the time and it’s just frightening when you can’t get help to you.”
The province says it’s investing in a system that will be introduced to emergency services later this year, but wouldn’t provide any further details.
“The Government of New Brunswick continues to support improvement to all forms of communications. We actively work with our partners to monitor any issues related to critical infrastructures in New Brunswick in times of emergency to ensure that essential services are maintained in the best of the province’s capacity,” said Danielle Elliott of the Emergency Measures Organization in a emailed statement.
Until new technology is introduced, residents say they’ll continue to relay on land-lines and two-way radios.