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If you lived in the Louisa Street area you were conscious of three separate power outages last weekend (October 15th & 16th) and again on Monday. The first two outages on Saturday and Sunday evening each lasted between one and two hours. An then on Monday afternoon there was an outage that lasted less than a half hour.

When I called on Monday morning to ask about the weekend outages the answering machine picked up and said they were closed on Mondays. And a visit to www.pspower.ca provided no indication that there had been anything wrong or what they were planning on doing to avoid a repeat of the outage.

It was only after speaking with one of the Town Councillors, who was open for business on Monday, that I received a partial answer. Apparently trees had blown over and knocked out the power line serving the Louisa Street area. That’s not really a surprise given the high winds we had over the weekend. But one might think that PS Power would have anticipated something like this as part of their regular maintenance program. And with two prolonged outages on two separate days, it is clear there was a problem waiting to happen.

A couple of suggestions:

1. How about an ‘after the outage’ note on the website letting people know what happened and is being done to prevent a recurrence?

2. Information is important during an outage. Can PS Power provide a Tweet or post an update on their website letting people know when the problem is expected to be resolved. Yes, I can hear people wondering how people experiencing a power failure might get an online message. Well, there are a number of people who have smartphones, not dependent on the power grid, who could get the update and pass it on to their neighbors.

PS Power has done a great job providing Parry Sound with uninterrupted electricity, and the recent outage was a real surprise. But the exception often provides an opportunity for improvement. Being plugged into the web and social media can be a low cost, high leverage way to keep customers informed and comforted. And I’d love to know if PS Power has plans to prevent similar outages in the future, or will they simply fix problems as they come up. In the short term this can be a cheaper way to run a business, in the long run it’s not a great way to keep customers. But if you have a monopoly you really don’t need to worry about customers do you?