Power outage communications have been assigned to the Yukon government’s Emergency Measures Organization.
The communications overhaul was announced at a media briefing in Whitehorse on Feb. 22, with the heads of Yukon Energy, ATCO Electric, Whitehorse Fire and the Emergency Measures Organization present. It was instigated after the outage on Dec. 19, which affected about 3,300 people in the Whitehorse region as temperatures hovered near -45 C. Some households were left without power for about four hours.
Andrew Hall, CEO of Yukon Energy, said in January that the outage response was under review, due to challenges coordinating communications between all responders.
It was agreed that a point person from the territorial Emergency Measures Organization would be the central contact between ATCO, Yukon Energy and the city or local leaders.
It’s a simple organizational step expected to make a big difference, Whitehorse Fire Chief Jason Everitt said on Feb. 22.
“That way we don’t have breakdowns in communication, we don’t have multiple people trying to call other groups to find out what’s going on,” he said.
Going forward, communication efforts will also include strategizing on energy consumption.
On Dec. 19, the breaker was overloaded at the Takhini substation, Hall told media. Increased energy demand and heavy construction in Whistle Bend were already stressing the system before the cold snap tripped the breaker. Once the breaker was overloaded, a quick settings change fixed the problem, Hall said.
Hall suggested that if the city communicated anticipated construction zones, and ATCO communicated the number of new houses jumping onto the grid, then Yukon Energy could make adjustments in advance of an outage.
City staff, ATCO and Yukon Energy are planning an annual meeting to confirm imminent construction areas and make a five-year plan for future subdivisions and population growth.
That will help make pre-emptive adjustments, so that outages are less likely during cold snaps.
It was noted on Feb. 22 that the freezing temps on Dec. 19 slowed response times.
“There were some struggles,” said Jay Massie, ATCO’s vice-president of Northern Development and Indigenous Relations.
“We had truck issues, we had people issues, we had equipment issues … but in the end, we were able to get through it in a little over four hours and incident-free.”
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at email@example.com