By David Brown, Ward 21 Councillor
The ice storm from this April caused tremendous damage and disruption to our community. Though some of that damage and disruption is always a consequence of mother nature unleashing her worst on us, it is my firm belief that our City and hydro distributors can learn important lessons from the storm and its attendant power outages.
To that end, I wrote a letter to the CEO’s of Hydro Ottawa, Hydro One, and to the Mayor highlighting a number of challenges facing our community as a result of the storm and power outages, urging all parties to use the time between now and the next storm to be better prepared.
The letter was based on the feedback that I have heard from the community. Residents expressed frustration around communication efforts from energy distributors, unsure when they might have power restored and how to plan accordingly. Others noted with concern that residents who rely upon wells and sump pumps were among the last in Ottawa to be restored to service. Communities like Manotick are served by both Hydro One and Hydro Ottawa, meaning that it is deprioritized by both energy distributors when compared to other communities of similar size.
These issues are so persistent because they are difficult to solve. Even so, as Councillor, I believe it is my duty to pressure the parties involved to find solutions.
To address these issues, I wrote in my letter that all parties must find ways to develop skills and experience outside of storm events through more emergency exercises, improve systems for managing communication with residents, reassess how the triage formula works to include the needs of customers and not just the size of the service area impacted, conduct more preemptive maintenance of trees, and work together to coordinate relief in areas that border Hydro One and Hydro Ottawa.
None of these changes will solve all the problems that arise from power outages. But they do represent a step in the right direction toward improving service standards for people across Ottawa generally and in rural Ottawa specifically.
By making these changes now, we stand a far greater chance of avoiding many of the challenges that impacted residents during the latest storm. Some of these efforts will require investments, but it is my belief that these are the kinds of investments that ratepayers and taxpayers can support as they will lead to clear improvements in how storm and power outage events are managed.
The linemen, forestry crews, and staff who worked through the Easter Holiday should be commended for their commitment to getting all residents back online as quickly as possible and supporting those who needed assistance. We are lucky to have such talented and hard-working people to rely upon. It is my hope that some policy changes will better enable these workers to apply their many skills to restore power more quickly and fairly to residents.
I would also like to extend my praise and gratitude to MPP Goldie Ghamari, who worked tirelessly during the storm to support residents and is a relentless advocate at Queen’s Park for our community. She plays an indispensable role in working with Hydro One to improve how these kinds of emergency situations are managed.
To anyone in the community who has further ideas about what can be done to strengthen the response of the City and power distributors to storm events, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at email@example.com.