Editorial: Nova Scotia Power has hard lessons to learn

Greg
Greg Bennett
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A screenshot of the NSP news release two days before Arthur's arrival.

It was Thursday, July 3.

Hurricane Arthur was still swirling and strengthening off the coast of the U.S. and was forecast to march northeast and hit Nova Scotia on that Saturday.

Nova Scotia Power issued a news release that all was still well …that they were “ready” for Arthur and were “well-prepared to respond” to the forecasted storm.

At the time we and most everyone else believed them.

They said they had been monitoring the storm for days and had been putting plans into place. They said they had as many Nova Scotia Power crews and contract line crews available as they had for any “recent storm of this size.”

They soothed us with sentences like “We have an experienced team ready to respond” and they added reassuring information like “Nova Scotia Power has had a focused program over the last five years to storm harden the system by upgrading equipment and trimming back trees along rights-of-way.”

And then finally, they reminded customers to call them toll-free in the event of a power outage, noting they had storm preparedness tips as well as outage information available on their website.

You know what happened.

The press release should have read like this.

****

Nova Scotia Power may not be prepared to respond to this oncoming storm and impacts on the electricity system could be severe and long-term.

We are monitoring Arthur but really have no idea what will happen when it arrives. We have some plans that may or may not work.

If you call our toll free number you may or may not get an answer. Our outage map probably won’t work either. When it does, it could give you false hope by telling you the power will be back that day, when we have no idea when we’ll get to your problem.

As many as 200,000 of you should expect to lose your power. Some should expect to be without electricity for a week so have a hot shower while you still can.

****

While we jest slightly, instead of the platitudes we received as the storm was approaching, we would have appreciated a far starker assessment of the situation.

If forewarned about the potential severity of the power problems, if nothing else at least we could have gotten ourselves better prepared for what was to come.

Had this been winter, we’re not sure how our local communities would have handled looking after the many thousands who would have needed shelter.

Thankfully, this was a summer storm, which for most, with the notable exception of those on portable oxygen or who were undergoing home dialysis, only caused major inconveniences.

There may be many lessons to learn, and we’re sure the power utility will learn some as a result of the fallout from its response to the storm.

We’ve certainly learned ours.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Power

Geographic location: U.S., Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Jack Morrison
    July 15, 2014 - 12:32

    NSP ought to have a power loss guarentee policy that would cover the loss of power due to their neglect of the transmission lines. If it can be shown that the power lines were not receiving proper care for the period preceeding a major storm then the rate payers would recieve a rebate for the damages incurred by the lack of electrical service. This ought to be accompanied by a punitive charge against NSP if it can be shown that complete neglect of powerline maintainence was the major cause of the power outage.

    • DB Nickerson
      July 21, 2014 - 01:48

      A perfect plan, Jack Morrison! But to get NSP to do something like that.......