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Storms show how BC Hydro crews rise to the challenge

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In December, a series of winter storms affected nearly 20 per cent of BC Hydro's customers. And just this past weekend, over 30,000 customers across southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland faced power outages when more wind, storm and heavy rain hit the region.

More than 18 centimetres of snow fell on the Coquihalla Highway near Hope, and Environment Canada issued major rainfall warnings for Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley.

Although the number of customers facing outages was significant, extensive planning for storm season response has helped to get power back quickly.

December storms restored faster thanks to earlier crew response

"We pre-deployed crews in anticipation of the bad weather and were optimistic that this would lead to quicker power restoration,” said Greg Reimer, Executive Vice-President of BC Hydro's Transmission and Distribution group.

When adverse weather was predicted, BC Hydro's storm response plan went into action, sending BC Hydro and contractor crews to areas and regions expected to be affected, but that don't normally have local crews.

Between December 8 and 12, BC Hydro experienced a total of 360,699 customer power interruptions in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Prince George.  That meant 1,761 dispatched Trouble Calls (where crews are sent out to fix the problem and restore power) There were more than 100 crews that responded to this storm series.

Wire guards and damage assessors free up crews, first responders

During the storms such as the ones we saw in December and this past weekend, it's not just line crews that are used to get power back quickly.

Wire guards and damage assessors were also deployed to relieve emergency responders and relay crucial information to crews before they arrived to begin restoration work. Often, emergency responders such as firefighters are the first to arrive on the scene of a fallen or damaged power line.

To maintain public safety, first responders stay at the scene to keep vehicles and people back from the line or pole until BC Hydro crews make the equipment and area safe.

Wire guards are dispatched to 'stand guard' of fallen wires during a storm, freeing up other first responders from having to take on that task. Damage assessors provide an assessment of the equipment and assets affected by the storm, and relay information to determine what type of crew and equipment is required. They also help to formulate a better Emergency Time Response.

"We use wire guards and damage assessors effectively during the storms and we've received some positive feedback on our response," noted David Lebeter, Vice-President of Field and Grid Operations.

"There was excellent communication between the groups to ensure we moved the crews in anticipation of where they were needed, because it's better to turn the crews around if they're not needed rather than calling them in late," said David.