NOTL Hydro’s system has the ability to make us aware of power outages automatically as they occur. The smart meters we use to measure energy usage are able to signal that they are no longer receiving power, known as the “last gasp” in the industry, and those alerts are sent to us by e-mail. This has occasionally enabled us to restore power to customers before they were even aware they had lost it.
However, when power is disrupted, we would still like customers to call and let us know. Your call is not a bother to us, and may help us restore power faster. We will ask for your address and if there is any other information you can provide about the outage. There are several reasons why we still want you to call:
- Customers often provide us with valuable information. We have had customers report hearing a loud bang or seeing a flash. This gives us an immediate area to focus on for the cause of the outage and the remedy needed. When power is disrupted, our first challenge is figuring out the cause of the outage. Sometimes we can be pretty sure we know before we even leave our building. If all the customers are on the same transformer, it is most likely the problem is with the transformer. Other times we can tell very quickly once we get to the area of the outage. If there is an accident taking out a pole, a downed tree across the lines or a pole-top fire, the cause of the outage is very evident. And sometimes it can be very difficult to determine the cause of the outage. We had a case recently where the crew patrolled the lines many times but could not see any cause for the outage. Finally, a customer came out and said he had seen a small flash on top of one of the poles; it turned out that a twig got caught in just the wrong place and caused a fault on the circuit.
- There is often more than one outage in bad weather. On April 15, when we had that sudden burst of high winds, we had 12 different outages. One scenario that creates a risk is when we have a large outage at the same time as smaller outages. Our crews will naturally focus on the large outage. The danger is they may not even be aware of the smaller outages so they may not be addressed expeditiously. If customers have called-in we can see if there are addresses that do not match with the area of the large outage and know there are additional outages to be addressed.
- Customers can make us aware of any special circumstances. For example, if someone is on electrically-powered medical equipment or if a business has a key process under way, we will try to take that into account. Generally, our focus is getting the most customers back on as fast as safely possible, and that is how we typically prioritize the efforts of our crews. In exceptional circumstances we can make adjustments to the outage response process.
If the outage is during regular business hours, your call will likely be answered by NOTL Hydro customer service staff. If there is a large influx of phone activity, calls may be transferred to our call center. After hours, all calls go to the call center. Our call center is based in Niagara and they have direct communication with our line crews. You can be confident that information provided to them will be used as thoughtfully as if provided direct to NOTL Hydro staff.