Blackout revealed systemic flaws

Sunday’s power outage showed how dim the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization is. The organization might be on top of…

Sunday’s power outage showed how dim the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization is.

The organization might be on top of the-behind-the-scenes-stuff.

But there’s clearly a problem with its ability to communicate with the public.

Information is power, and had EMO provided a little more, the Crown-owned Yukon Energy Corporation might have had an easier time bringing the lights back on after the catastrophic failure of the Aishihik generating facility.

During a CBC Radio interview on Monday, a spokesman told the public that people had to draft their own emergency plans.

That’s a good idea.

Everything people need to prepare for a disaster was in the phone book. Consult page 51, said Doug Caldwell.

So we did.

There’s one sentence.

“Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.”

Oh, it also recommends listening to the radio.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t much good on Sunday, a day dominated by national broadcast reels on all three radio stations.

CBC actually did a pretty good job of informing the public about the problem, but it took the network more than four hours before it was handed firm information about the outage.

That is, information was provided as soon as the power was well on the way to being coaxed back on.

Frankly, that’s not good enough.

Yukon Energy Corp. knew immediately it was dealing with a catastrophic failure.

It should have contacted emergency measures right away.

That organization should have, within 90 minutes, provided the three local radio stations with a sketch of the problem.

They could have immediately started the half-hour updates that kicked in on CBC later in the evening.

People could have been urged to shut down their breakers to ease the resumption of power.

They could have been told to prepare for a prolonged outage.

It didn’t happen.

The emergency measures organization has a timeline for responding to incidents.

But the city had trouble contacting both the utility and the Yukon government.

That is troubling, and reflects poorly on the existing communication plans.

The power outage was severe, a 10-year event, but it was handled relatively well.

Most folks rolled with it — enjoying the brief respite from the TV, computer and constant hum of power.

Nevertheless, some shortcomings in the system were revealed.

Yes, people should have personal emergency plans.

But emergency measures and other government agencies must tweak their communications strategies.

Perhaps it’s time to establish a dedicated FM broadcast that people could consult for information in the event of a disaster.

For, in the event of a more serious incident, the public will definitely need information faster. (RM)