It is not often that Nova Scotia Power is handed compliments for its handling of power outages and timely restoration of service. If anything it generally has to absorb the wrath of angry and frustrated customers who, in the past, have been left in the dark both literally and figuratively with little in the way of information from the public utility.
It would appear Nova Scotia Power has learned its lesson if its response to last weeks intense weather bomb is any indication. For one thing, the utility has invested in more robust technology in an effort to stay in touch with its customers and provide them with more timely and accurate information. Being proactive rather than reactive meant that Nova Scotia Power was ready to deal with a worst case scenario.
In the case of last week’s major winter storm, Nova Scotia Power launched the biggest pre-storm mobilization in its history, calling in hundreds of line crews from as far away as Quebec. Karen Hutt, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power was unusually candid in her expectations of this storm predicting serious damage to the system.
As she stated “ it makes a big, big difference if we can get our crews on the ground throughout the province and get them in a position where as soon as it's safe for them to be out on the ground, they will be.”
From a public relations perspective, optics are important and Nova Scotia Power cleverly had its CEO front and centre during the entire operation. Karen Hutt was a constant spokesperson for the utility providing most of the outage updates to all the major media outlets and answering the tough questions when they were posed by reporters. When it comes to accountability and transparency, the buck stops with the person at the top and not some middle manager.
The real credit, though, should go to the unsung heroes of such weather-related emergencies - the men and women tasked with carrying out the repairs to downed power lines under the most trying of conditions. Utility line workers, not unlike other first responders like police, firefighters and paramedics put their lives on the line everyday. They have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. These men and women are required to venture out into the worst of weather conditions to handle high powered electrical lines. Many of these downed power lines are tangled with fallen trees and other debris, and the linemen are often working in the dark, making it that much more dangerous. It’s a job that can be quite unpredictable and — as a result — requires a unique combination of strength, coordination and problem solving in order to be successful.
I read in one trades article that on an average day, linemen will have to carry at least 30 pounds of equipment and tools. It’s not a job for everybody — to work as a utility lineman you have to be mentally and physically strong and cannot be shy about heights.
We tend to take our electrical power for granted and it isn’t until we have faced the sudden loss of that resource that we realize our vulnerabiity. Thanks to the expertise and sometimes heroic efforts of those who maintain that service, our discomfort is usually shortlived. And in the case of this most recent storm, kudos to Nova Scotia Power for a job well done.
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.