More than 24 hours after Nashville explosion, many 911 communications and AT&T internet spots remain out

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NASHVILLE, TN- Who knows if this was a vulnerability test, but if it was, mission accomplished. The explosion that took place in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning has wreaked havoc on communications throughout the metro-Nashville area. The probable terrorist attack, which occurred just outside an AT&T facility downtown had eviscerated 911 communications throughout Nashville which is continuing, according to the Tennessean.

 AT&T reported that they are attempting numerous strategies in order to restore service, a Saturday morning news release said.

At 6:30 a.m. on Christmas morning, a RV which was suspiciously parked near the facility on Second Ave. and Commerce St. in downtown Nashville apparently exploded, in what law enforcement authorities are calling an “intentional act.”

Local, state and federal law enforcement authorities are continuing to investigate the explosion, which injured three persons and destroyed numerous buildings and homes, with at least 41 businesses being damaged.

Conservative US is reporting that the FBI has assumed lead investigative authority for the explosion.

Nashville police were dispatched to the area Friday morning on a report of gunshots being fired in the area, according to Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron. He noted there was no evidence of shooting, however officers did notify the department’s bomb squad about a suspicious RV. The bomb squad was enroute when the explosion took place around 30 minutes later, Aaron said.

AT&T reported the significant disruption of services in the Nashville region, and the explosion also caused a ground stop at the Nashville International Airport, officials said.

“We continue to restore service for customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas who were affected by this morning’s explosion,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said in a statement Friday morning.

“We have mobilized additional resources including our National Disaster Recovery team and are bringing in multiple portable cell sites to assist in the recovery efforts.”

As of Saturday morning, two portable cell sites were up and operating in downtown Nashville, while others were being deployed throughout the region.

On Friday night, teams were at the damaged AT&T facility and were attempting to restore power to what was deemed to be critical equipment, however a fire reignited which required the building to be evacuated. By Saturday morning, teams had returned along with safety and structural engineers to ensure the viability of the building structure.

The AT&T statement also noted the company was thankful for the work of first responders in order to protect those attempting to restore service for customers.

While flights out of the Nashville airport were ceased for a time on Christmas Day, most appeared to be operating on-time by Saturday morning, the Tennessean said.

Throughout the region, however 911 communications were severely interrupted. Most of the departments posted on social media to share their routine telephone numbers, as well as alternate access numbers for residents to seek emergency assistance.

According to Conservative US, the explosion took out what is referred to as the “FirstNet” switch. FirstNet is, according to its website designed “to deploy, operate, maintain and improve the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety.”

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According to a news release issued by AT&T on December 8, the FBI expanded its use of that network, awarding AT&T a mobility contract in order “to support the FBI’s day-to-day and emergency operations.” The agreement was said to be valued at $92 million.

The news release notes that numerous other investigative agencies within the federal government utilize FirstNet, including the DEA, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

When the agreement was announced, Stacy Schwartz, VP of FirstNet Program at AT&T said:

“We’re extremely proud to be supporting a preeminent law enforcement agency like the FBI, we take a great deal of pride in working with them.”

The explosion and the relation of the building to FirstNet and the FBI naturally brought out some conspiracy theorists.

Some questioned the initial call of gunshots in the area, as well as the “warning” ahead of time to evacuate the downtown Nashville area.

While this gives the appearance of a terrorist event, there are some legitimate questions as to why the attack was warned ahead of time. Typically in terrorist attacks, the responsible actors are trying to inflict as much death and destruction as possible.

Some people reported that the FBI would not allow local law enforcement assets into the scene, nor the infrastructure engineers in order to repair the switches initially, although subsequent reporting seems to indicate that is no longer the case. We’ve included some of the tweets for context on what was being discussed on social media.

 

As of press time, nobody has accepted responsibility for the explosion.

CBS News reported Saturday morning that the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, with more than 1,000 employees and which oversees four correctional facilities still has had its communications disrupted.

 

CBS said AT&T issued a release Saturday morning, which said:

“Our teams continue to work around the clock on recovery efforts from yesterday morning’s explosion in Nashville. We have two portable cell sites operating in downtown Nashville with numerous additional portable sites being deployed in the Nashville area and in the region.”

CBS reported that Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee has reached out to the White House for federal assistance due to the “severity and magnitude” of the explosion’s impact.

 

Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said that when officers were dispatched to the area Friday morning, the RV was broadcasting a recorded message warning the bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. Nearby buildings were evacuated, and the bomb squad was dispatched, he said. The explosion occurred shortly thereafter.

Police say they do not know the motive or target, but clearly believe it was intentional.

Lee toured the area Saturday morning and tweeted the following:

“This morning I toured the site of the bombing. The damage is shocking and it’s a miracle that no residents were killed. @MariaLeeTN and I continue to pray for those who sustained injuries from the blast.”

 


On Friday, Chief Drake confirmed that investigators at the scene “have found tissue that we believe could be remains, but we’ll have that examined and let you know at that time.” No additional information has come forth.

Nashville’s mayor John Cooper has issued a curfew in downtown Nashville through Sunday. That area includes the heart of Nashville’s tourist area. Cooper issued the edict via executive order to restrict public access to the area as investigators continue to piece the puzzle of the explosion together.

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