During the most recent storm event, a resident offered a furnished rental home that was vacant to any family out of power needing a place to stay. Other residents offered a room in their own home. Someone offered a generator. More called to volunteer to help in any way they could. In dozens of ways, Burlington residents came together to help each other through the power outage which, for some, lasted up to eight days.
It made my heart proud to field these calls and emails and know the community had each other’s back during the emergency. I’m also thankful for the dedication and long hours logged over the holidays by hydro workers, fire, police and emergency crews, and city staff to get power restored and keep our roads and neighbourhoods safe. Our crews did outstanding work in very challenging circumstances, giving their holidays in the service of the community.
An event like the power outage provides an opportunity to come together as a community, and review what went well and what we can do better for next time.
Our senior staff are reviewing the storm event to prepare an after action report to be reviewed by the Emergency Planning Committee. I’ve provided feedback, including the comments below, and am also looking for your input.
Any time there is a prolonged power outage (in my mind that’s anything more than 24 hours) we need detailed proactive communications on multiple platforms (phone, print, online), and we need to engage radio and television broadcast media, particularly in Hamilton, to cover Burlington’s situation.
The primary concern I heard from residents was lack of information specific to their street. Did hydro know their street was out (early information only listed outages in the rural area)? What was the cause? And when would it be back online?
Residents understood that it would take time to restore power. Residents were prepared to be patient, and understood that downed hydro lines that posed a safety risk took priority. They just wanted information specific to their area. If we can provide that information in the early stages of a storm event, that reduces anxiety and helps people to plan.
Perhaps an automated system could send street by street data from the control centre when there is a power outage to an online database that residents could check themselves. Could an app be built – a job for our local Halton technical folks maybe?
Outreach Door to Door:
In such a prolonged storm event, there should be proactive outreach to vulnerable populations: for example seniors homes, apartments known to be populated by seniors, low income areas (some of this did occur during the recent storm event). This could be by phone, and if there is no power door to door. A standard handout could be dropped to these areas without power letting them know about warming stations, a single call number for information, any resident meetings, the cause and estimated time of the power outage.
We need a point person assigned to receive offers of volunteer time/services, and match these offers with needs. Essentially, we need an organized way to mobilize the whole community and this should be written into an emergency manual.
Your Take: What worked well during the storm event? What could we do better next time? Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org