Power out in Saskatoon

Monday's power outage knocked the City's website off-line, along with the fire department's digital radio system. (Peter Mills/CBC)

City and fire officials in Saskatoon are working to ensure that a power failure won't knock out communications, like it did on Monday.

The City's website and email systems were down for about four hours. And the blackout also briefly interrupted the fire department's digital radio systems -- for two ten minute periods.

An emergency power generator would have kept the city's website and email systems up and running, said Catherine Gryba, General Manager of Corporate Performance.

"We had a plan in place. And had this occurred two months from now there would not have been an impact to the website." Gryba said.

Emergency generator moving to City Hall

There is an emergency generator at the soon-to-be decommissioned police station on Fourth Avenue.  It will be moved to city hall after that station closes and the new police station opens.

The irony is, during the power outage, the City was asking people to go to the website for information on when power would be restored. Should a situation like this happen again, the City will direct people to an alternate website, which Gryba described as "more of a blog".

"The alternate website will in fact be information about the service disruption, when people can expect service to be back up and running," she said, adding "it will not be a fully serviced website with all of the the city services on it, but certainly enough information to keep people informed about the service disruption."

As was done Monday, information will also be relayed through Twitter and Facebook.

Uninterrupted power supply failed

Over at the fire department, an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) was supposed to keep the radio system running even in a power outage.  But the UPS failed, and now will be replaced, said assistant chief Morgan HacklHe said the UPS was tested in March and was working.

During the power outage, the fire department was using telephone land lines to dispatch crews and equipment. Once on scene, communication was done via cell phone.

In the 20 minutes the fire department was without radio communication, crews responded to 12 alarms (four fire, three for people stuck in elevators, and the rest carbon monoxide and medical calls).

"Not having our radio system probably did delay things by a few seconds," Hackl said. But the department still met its standard of dispatching a truck within 60 seconds of receiving a call, he added.

Meanwhile, the department is putting a protocol in place for the next time the digital radio system goes down. Hackl said dispatchers can move on to non-digital radio channels. It won't involve any additional cost, he assured.