BC Hydro's planned power outages: why they're necessary

BC Hydro crew inspects warning markers above Sansum Narrows from helicopter

We decide on a date and time only after weeks of planning, feedback

Simi Heer

BC Hydro must perform work on the electrical system to maintain its safe and efficient operation. Unfortunately, some of this work can only be done with the power lines de-energized, which usually means an outage for our customers.

We plan for outages to perform work that either can’t be done at all or can’t be done safely while the equipment is energized.

By planning the outage and doing the necessary work, our crews can prevent a potential unplanned emergency outage in the future, where a part of the system unexpectedly fails or malfunctions.

Electricity is essential to our way of life and is the backbone of our economy. It's nearly impossible to find a date for the outage that works the best for everyone who's affected by it. However, we start planning weeks in advance and get feedback from local leaders, municipal officials and the community.

We make phone calls to specific people, send letters to customers who will be affected and run advertisements in community newspapers and on local radio stations. The advance notice also allows businesses to arrange for alternate generation for the duration of the outage so that they can keep their businesses open.

How we decide on an outage date

We consider various factors when finalizing a date:

  • Safety: public and worker safety is always our primary concern. We need to make sure the work is done in the safest environment possible.
  • Availability of experts: some of the work we must do is very specialized and can only be performed by crews with very unique skills and equipment. If this is the case, we must schedule work around their availability.
  • Weather: some work can’t be done when it is raining, other work can be done under all weather conditions. This is why outages can be sometimes cancelled at the last minute.
  • Schools: if an outage may impact a school, we do our best to ensure it falls on a day when school is not in session.
  • Community events: if there is a community event or celebration scheduled, we’ll rule out that day.
  • Traffic management: some work may cause disruptions to traffic. We need to work with municipal officials to ensure our work fits into their traffic management plans.

How you can prepare for a planned outage

To prepare for power interruptions, we encourage you to protect your equipment from damage, turn off all lights, electric heaters and major appliances and unplug all electronics.

For the first hour after the power comes back on, please only plug in or turn on those electronics and appliances that you really need. This gives the system time to stabilize and prevents it from getting overloaded.

We can all take steps to prepare for an outage when we know it’s going to happen, but most often, power outages are caused by factors beyond our control – wind, lightning, etc. – and can happen at any moment.

It’s important to ensure you are prepared for an outage year-round. Learn about preparing for outages at home or at your business.

Simi Heer is with BC Hydro's media relations department.