Letter from our CEO

An update to explain our website outage

An open letter from Jessica McDonald, our President and CEO

One month ago today, a fierce windstorm hit the south coast and left 710,000 homes and businesses without power. During and immediately after the storm, many of you turned to bchydro.com, which is our go-to source for details about where power outages are, why they happened, and estimations of when power will be restored.

But with an unprecedented number of outages in a short period of time, our website crashed, and you were left without this support. I committed to you that we would work diligently to determine the cause of the website failure and I want to provide you with an update on what we have learned and what action we're taking.

The wave of requests for information on the outages overloaded our system. Our website typically has 5,000 users per hour and has been tested to meet the needs of up to 50,000 users per hour – which is the number of users we saw during the 2006 Stanley Park windstorm. Until this year, the 2006 storm was the worst outage event BC Hydro had ever experienced.

We're estimating that during this August storm, 90,000 users per hour tried to access the site. Compounding the number of users trying to visit our site, our system was also generating detailed maps pinpointing neighbourhoods where the power was out.

In a typical large storm, we may deal with only a few hundred separate outages. But as drought-weakened trees fell on power lines across the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island, we faced more than 5,000 separate outages at various locations and this required a huge amount of data to generate the maps.

I can assure you that our website issues had no effect on the ability of our crews to restore what was an unprecedented number or outages and that response times were not slowed in any way. Our command centre processes outage data through different channels.

I know that, for those of you affected, being without electricity for an extended period of time is very difficult, and that this was even more challenging without access to our website. Many of you turned to our Twitter and Facebook channels for information about the outages, but I also recognize that the most detailed, easiest-to-use, information wasn't available.

So here's how we're working to fix this and prevent it from happening again during any future major event. The capacity of the website is being increased to handle more users and more data, as well as creating immediate redundant capability for the website, so it's always available.

Please take the time to ensure you're prepared for future outages and other emergencies including earthquakes, and that you have well-stocked emergency kits and plans for your families and businesses. And if you come across a fallen power line, it should be considered live. Stay 10 metres back – about the length of a bus – and call us at 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) to report the exact location.

Thanks again for your patience and support. We sincerely appreciate it and are working hard to ensure we meet your needs when it matters most.