When your lights are out, we’re on

How we handle power outages

We can all remember a time when the lights have gone out. Maybe we woke up to the alarm clock flashing or had to trade the brightness of a lamp for the glow of candlelight over dinner. Many Ottawans, especially, can remember clearly a more severe time when they were without power for weeks during the ice storm in the winter of 1998.

Last week’s snow and freezing rain storm was frighteningly reminiscent of the Ice Storm of 1998, named one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history. The storm on January 4 caused more than 100 outages in pockets throughout the city and affected 4,510 customers. All available crews were out working on restoring power with the help of 35 arborists working on tree trimming and clearing overhead lines so that crews could work safely.

Whether it’s a significant and destructive weather event like that, or a neighbourhood squirrel interfering with the lines on a summer day, our job is to get the energy back to power your everyday life.

There’s a lot that goes on at an operational level to ensure this happens as safely and quickly as possible. We rely on talented personnel and complex systems to make sure the power’s on across our 1,100-square kilometre service territory, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

After being alerted about an interruption either via our system or customers, we dispatch our repair crews to the area and notify our customers, including through social media like Twitter and Periscope. Here, you’ll find the information posted as we know it, oftentimes along with photos, video, and even livestreams. We don’t want to keep you in the dark when you’re in the dark!

Our crews investigate the cause, which can range from losing provincial grid supply to vehicle damage to equipment issues and more. Then, they estimate how long it will take to fix, which can be more difficult when the cause isn’t immediately evident or the outage widespread.

During major interruptions, we prioritize the repairs; getting the power back up to critical infrastructure such as emergency services, hospitals, schools and larger neighbourhoods or communities  of customers first. We then systematically move on to repair lines that are serving the largest number of customers and proceed until we are repairing and restoring individual customers in our community.

When disastrous power outages take place away from home, we’re there to help as well. Our crews worked with the restoration teams following 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and lent a hand in frigid and dangerous conditions during the December 2013 ice storm in the GTA. Last year, Hydro Ottawa formally joined a regional assistance group of utilities committed to assisting each other when large-scale outages impact the North Atlantic area.

In our backyard or in a neighbouring city, we’re on when your lights aren’t. So the next time you find yourself unable to charge your phone, know that our professionals, using proven processes, are hard at work.

Want to learn more? Visit our outage centre and watch this video detailing our restoration process.