Power loss causes business chaos

A power outage sets off alarm bells for security companies. “What often happens when we have a power outage is that you get a power…

A power outage sets off alarm bells for security companies.

“What often happens when we have a power outage is that you get a power surge,” said Sonny Gray, owner and operator of Sirius Security.

It means a lot of extra work.

“That sets off a lot of the alarms. We have a patrol unit that the dispatcher sends out to all these different sites to check in on them. We know that it’s the power surge, but you still have to check.”

And that costs the customer money.

“For the client it’s a pain in the ass, because they have to pay us for those checks,” he said.

But the checks are necessary because an outage provides cover for crooks.

“If you get a long-term power outage, it affects mainly the patrol units because those guys are going around town, they’re checking buildings, they’re checking parking lots and they’re doing Kwanlin Dun,” said Gray.

“There’s a higher chance of something happening when there is no power.”

It can be hectic and stressful.

“We get a whole bunch of calls at the exact same time pretty much, in the same 15 minutes,” said Gray.

For the rest of the business world, a loss of power means higher costs.

“From the sales perspective, it really hurts business,” said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

The tough decisions fall on the employees.

“How long is (the outage) going to be? Do we keep the people here, do we send the people home?,” he said.

“It’s very, very expensive when that happens. You can’t send them (the employees) out for lunch because where are they going to get lunch?”

Then the product might suffer.

“You’re sitting there for a couple of hours, you’re paying for all your staff and, if you’re a restaurant, you have to reheat  everything — you have wasted food.”

And then there’s the clientele.

“If you’re in a salon or something and you’re drying someone’s hair and the power goes out. Well, the person is sitting there with their hair wet.”

When Whitehorse hydro station’s number four generator failed on Sunday due to a stuck valve, it left Karp scratching his head.

“My understanding is that there was an awareness of number four already being a problem,” he said.

“The time to fix those things is in the summer. If you know that number four is a problem, don’t force us in the middle of winter to go onto diesel power. A month ago was the time to fix these issues — not now.”

Monday’s “mystery” outage leaves him with even more concern.

“That’s disconcerting,” he said.

“An explanation would be very nice because then people could say, ‘OK, there was severe wind and it knocked out power at this pole and it did this to that transformer and there was this cascading effect.’

“And then you have it back up in an hour or two, you can say, ‘Fantastic, good for you guys.’

“But when someone says the power went out and we have no idea why and here we are several days later, I would want them to be looking into it and really find out the reason it went down.”

Business has been forced to adapt.

“Some places in town have an alternate source of power because they know we don’t have a consistent and reliable power source,” said Karp.

One of those businesses is Canadian Tire.

“When we built (our store), we equipped it with a generator for when the Whitehorse area does run out of power,” said Daniel Charlebois, the store’s owner and operator.

It’s a good idea for companies that supply emergency supplies.

“While the generator was operating we noticed a lot of people coming in for flashlights and generators and things for heating, like kerosene and lamps,” he said.

But Canadian Tire suffered an unexpected hitch during Sunday’s outage.

“We did have a problem where the generator developed a coolant leak, so we did have to shut down for a little while.”

After repairing the generator, Monday’s lengthier outage wasn’t a problem.

“Hopefully now we’ve resolved that issue,” said Charlebois.

Because of its generator, Canadian Tire’s computers, registers and automatic doors didn’t suffer any problems. There is also a surge protector to keep the power grid from damaging electronics or affecting the security system.

Other businesses aren’t so lucky, said Karp.

“We look out and the doors are closed and people are out of the shops and the time is lost for that sale.”