British Columbia

Most BC Hydro customers are still unprepared for power outages, utility says

BC Hydro says customers need to play their part in the event of the lights going out as it prepares for winter storms with new tools and technology to tackle power outages.

Only half of British Columbians have an emergency preparedness kit, study finds

Firefighters survey damage in Maple Ridge during a storm on Dec. 20, 2018. Storms last winter left around 750,000 customers without power. (Shane Mackichan )

BC Hydro says customers need to play their part in the event of the lights going out as it prepares for winter storms with new tools and technology to tackle power outages.

Last December, more than 750,000 hydro customers were left without power after heavy storms and, for many, it took days for electricity to be restored. 

But a new report by the utility says more than 60 per cent of British Columbians still aren't prepared for when the power goes out. 

Only half of British Columbians have an emergency kit, the report says. 

"This is one thing we really do recommend all British Columbians have just to ensure they're well prepared for the winter storm season and potentially being without power for a few hours or a couple of days," said BC Hydro spokesperson Tanya Fish.

Those kits should include bottled water, non-perishable food, first aid and any required medication, warm clothing and blankets, and a flashlight with extra batteries. 

Only half of British Columbians have an emergency preparedness kit, says a new BC Hydro study. (Jan Lakes/CBC)

52,000 trees cut near power lines

BC Hydro hopes it can prevent some outages this winter after learning lessons from the severe December 2018 storm.

The utility has undertaken a tree-cutting program over the past year, removing more than 52,000 trees near power lines to prevent them from falling and knocking out the lines when a storm hits.

A combination of adverse weather and falling trees caused 30 per cent of outages in 2018, according to BC Hydro. (BC Hydro)

Bad weather and fallen trees are the most common cause of power outages in the province, according to the utility's report. 

"Having a strong vegetation management program is really going to help the reliability of our system," Fish said. 

BC Hydro spends about $50 million a year keeping operations safe from trees, which includes inspections as well as removals. 

The utility says it is also using new meteorology models this winter to track weather patterns and better predict when storms are coming. 

"In recent years, we've seen an increase in the frequency and severity of winter storms in the province," said Fish. 

Also, the utility says its crews in the field will now be equipped with satellite tools to be able to communicate from areas where there's no cell coverage.

Fish says this will help keep crews in contact with operations centres and update customers faster about when power will be restored. 

With files from Micki Cowan

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