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Wooden pole work could require scheduled outage for your business

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BC Hydro must have about 12,000 poles replaced annually over the next few years

Across British Columbia, there are a whopping 900,000 wooden poles holding electrical wires aloft and playing their role in the delivery of reliable electrical service to homes and businesses served by BC Hydro.

Wooden poles last a long time, about 40-50 years. And then they need to be replaced.

BC Hydro tests the strength of poles annually, identifies those that have become damaged or weakened by age, and sends contractors out to install a new wooden pole in place of the old one.

Now, as part of BC Hydro's capital investment strategy, there are an unusually high number of poles requiring replacement — about 12,000 planned for each of the next few years. That could mean power outages for your business.

As replacement activity ramps up, it's worth knowing what the process entails, and planning ahead to be ready.

Five to 10 working days notice; eight hours without power

"Everyone from small shops up to large chain stores could be affected," says Raj Sharma, manager of customer service operations. "We do our best to limit the scope of the outage, but we tell customers to expect up to an eight-hour outage if they are on a line that requires a pole replacement.

Sharma says outages will take place Mondays through Fridays, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. They are weather-dependent, so even if one is scheduled, it may be cancelled if crews are unable to work that day, mainly due to heavy rain.

Crews do some of the work "hot" (with power on), cutting the top of the pole off and keeping it suspended while the bottom of the old pole is dug out and a new one set in place. At that point, power must be switched off to transfer the wires to the new pole, and to protect the safety of the crew and the public.

BC Hydro sub-contracts the work to various contractors around the province. They are required to provide a minimum of 10 working days notice to larger, key-account business customers, and five working days notice to small and medium-sized businesses. (Residential customers are usually notified the day before, or in some cases, the same day a replacement is scheduled.)

Knowing that an eight-hour outage could occur, Sharma suggests businesses plan in advance how they might handle the time, such as scheduling maintenance on internal electrical projects, or holding an off-site staff retreat.

Learn more about preparing for outages at your business

"It's understandable that outages cause some challenges for our business customers," says Sharma. "But this is an infrastructure renewal project; we're being proactive in terms of public safety and maintaining the reliability of power service is maintained and improved over time. So we thank our customers for their patience and support in helping keep this work moving along."

If you have questions about pole replacements, please talk to your Key Account manager, or call the BC Hydro call centre at 604 224 9376 or 1 800 224 9376.