Another hydro outage for Barriere and the North Thompson Valley on Oct. 3. Not as long as the last one but it happened during the business day and the kids were in school.
What do these outages really cost our community and residents? We could start with our community reputation. Who will move here if they have to put up with repetitive outages?
Then there is the direct loss of revenue felt by local businesses. The mill might shut down. Employees lose pay, and the business loses revenue. Motels and hotels lose guests since there is no where to find a meal. Tire shops, hardware and grocery stores lose business. Students may be sent home, and the parents must make arrangements to take care of them. All at an extra cost some of us can ill afford.
Who pays for all of this?
All of us that live here pay in one way or another when the power goes out and it is not cheap.
In rural communities, when the power is out, most times the whole town is dark. The situation can become serious quickly, and in a number of different ways. It is not just an inconvenience, like in a larger centre.
The time taken to resolve the issue is typically longer in rural communities since the problem involves for the most part the distribution lines that feed the community. These lines run through easements and can be tricky to repair. Even if it is a local problem, crews must come from Kamloops, and that takes a minimum of two hours.
Plus, here in the valley our grid is not looped, so one problem at the start of the line can put 11,000 homes in our valley out of service – a design fault that BC Hydro has known about for decades but has done nothing to fix. It is too expensive, they cry. Too expensive for them, translates into we pay the cost time and time again.
In addition to the damage to our community image and the lost revenue, multiple social problems also occur when rural communities lose power.
For example, home care is all the rage now to cut down on provincially funded medical costs. As a result we have residents at home relying on various medical aids instead of being in the hospital. Units that dispense intravenous drugs and fluids have a battery backup, but how long does that last?
Then there are breathing devices that have no backup at all. With no place in town that has power during an outage, what do we expect these folks to do? Gasp as best they can until the lights come on?
Plus the way things are going, if they tried to call for an ambulance to be taken to hospital, either the ambulance would be out of town or the cordless phone won’t work without power.
Do we have to have someone die here in the valley to get the attention of those that can fix what is wrong with our hydro power?
The improvement plans for our highways are based on how dangerous the road is. This is based on fatalities. Has BC Hydro service planning gone that route as well?
Proper planning, or lack of it, does not stop with BC Hydro. We have local issues too.
We rely on electric power to pump water to fight fires. If we have learned nothing else from the fires in 2003 we should have learned that being able to have fire protection is an absolute must.
There is a backup generator in the plans for the sewer plant, but no backup power for our wells. Barriere will be able to turn sewage into water even during a power outage, but heaven help us if we want water to fight a fire.
– Bill Humphreys is mayor of Barriere