Preparing for the September 22 power outage

Trent Ernst, Editor


This is it, the week of Tumbler Ridge’s first all-day power outage since they replaced the power poles along High Hat Creek on July 28, 2011. And, like that event, this one too is planned.

According to Bob Gammer of BC Hydro, this latest planned power outage is to take care of a whole bunch of maintenance issues, especially at the Tumbler Ridge Substation. “Hopefully the weather will be nice that day,” he says.

There are certain things one can do to prepare for a power outage in general, and some things that you can do specifically for a power outage you know is coming, says Gammer.

Everyone, says Elaine Cooper, head of the Tumbler Ridge Emergency Social Services (ESS) Team, should have an Emergency Kit. “It’s not a panic,” she says. “But this should get people thinking ‘what if next time, it’s not just from seven to seven. How will we cope?’ We’re very lucky it’s not going to be -40 out.”

According to the information Cooper hands me (straight from the BC Hydro website), “Knowledge is power” in a power outage. It recommends developing a preparedness plan and sharing it with your family, making a list of local emergency contact numbers, and preparing an emergency kit.

What is an emergency kit? It’s a kit that contains essentials to get you through a 72-hour power outage. While this outage is only going to last 12 hours, now is a good time to put together your kit, if you don’t have one. It should include: flashlights; batteries; a first aid kit; two litres of bottled water per person per day; a battery or crank operated clock; non-perishable; ready to eat food; warm clothing; blankets and games; books or cards to keep yourself occupied.

Information about the outage will be available on local radio stations, by calling 1-888-POWERON, or by visiting the BC Hydro website on your smartphone (assuming nothing happens to the Telus tower during the outage).

Before the outage, turn off all appliances and electronics. When the power comes back on, it takes a while for it to balance out. The extra jolt of electricity can damage electronics and even, in some cases, cause fires. If you don’t have surge protectors, you might even want to unplug your most sensitive electronic devices.

Some people have portable generators for these situations. Never operate these indoors. The same goes for barbecues and other portable stoves and kerosene lamps.

Because this is a scheduled power outage, it is possible to take steps to prepare that you wouldn’t have time for in an unscheduled outage.

Make sure that your portable electronic devices (cell phone, iPad, laptop, etc) are fully charged before the outage. While your home internet will not function during the outage, Telus’ cellular network will continue to operate. “All of our systems have backup systems,” says Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall. “Depending on the system, they’re engineered to last between 24 and 72 hours. We have redundancy and backup.”

Hall says that when the power goes out, your home phone may stop working. “In your home, we actually power the phone system independently, but cordless requires power to the base station,” says Hall. “A hard wired phone will continue to work during the power outage.”

Hall says it’s always a good idea to have a corded phone, “even if you just keep it in a box in the closet, so you can break it out in an extended power outage.”

So how are people planning to prepare for the outage? “Most people I’ve talked to say they’re going to go shopping in Grande Prairie,” laughs Cooper.