The Great Outage of 2016
So, as of this writing, it appears to be settled. The tug towing the too tall crane on a barge that took out the power lines over Dodds Narrows did not drag an anchor and take out an undersea cable – and all of our phone and data lines. Those lines were overhead, and went crashing down along with our power lines
Nevertheless, it was a major awakening to everyone here, as every service on the island was affected. With landline phones not able to reach any off island numbers and many local numbers, and our notoriously inadequate local cell service further compromised by the power outage, people found their ability to reach out was non-existent for most part.
The partial solution that was able to be provided by the GVFD was to man the Firehall, 24 hrs a day until all the systems were up again. The firehall still had the radio communications to reach the dispatchers in Nanaimo, who would forward info as required to and from other agencies, such as the BC Ambulance dispatch. This of course, resulted in a situation were, as a last resort, someone would need to physically come to the Firehall to call for help.
We all owe a big thank you to Paul Giffin and Rich Williams, two of our Gabriola Emergency Communications group, who also work in alliance with the Coastal Emergency Communications group. They did the lions share of manning the hall for all these days and nights. The GEC radio room, established in the lower level of the new Firehall has proven to be a great asset for our community!
Now that things are back to normal, I think it would be a great time for the community to overview how people were affected, beyond the obvious, and see what practical solutions could be enacted to help improve the situation for the next time. A good start would be to learn about our Neighbourhood emergency planning and our Emergency Social Services programs. Neighbours helping neighbours. They have many thoughtful, time tested considerations on how to help survive more comfortably during such an episode.
We were lucky this time, as the weather was relatively warm. But that accident could have just as easily happened during a cold and blustery January storm, when helicopters couldn’t fly for a week or more, to repair the damage. We all need to be ready for that one.