Preparing for the next time
In the aftermath of the largest and longest power outage experienced by the City of Ottawa there are a lot of questions to ask, when we analyze what happened and what could be done different, to be better prepared for any future severe weather events. As a city we need to look at better ways in getting information out to residents who have no power and how to manage the needs of those who are suddenly losing food in their fridges and are unable to cook a meal or afford to buy more food for days on end.
As we have learned, storms don’t care what day it is and whether it is a long weekend. At the city level this meant many staff returned to work on short notice to run operations across the city. I want to thank our city staff for handling many aspects of assisting residents in need in a timely manner. The Human Needs Task Force (HNTF) is a coalition of social service and other agencies working with the city to ensure that there is collaboration in reaching out to residents. The HNTF was originally set up to deal with the pandemic but has been proven valuable again during this outage.
The severe weather event caused nearly half our city to lose their main source of power, electricity. Hydro Ottawa had to work quickly to deal with a catastrophic situation that was on too large of a scale for just their own workers to handle. If you were someone who had to wait up to 10 days to receive power, I expect you have many questions and concerns on what could be done better in the future. The real question for planning for the future is what we can do to not end up in this situation again.
We need to examine all available options that will keep our energy sources safe from strong winds and lightning strikes. My team and I have taken note of the many questions and recommendations that have come in to us from residents over the last two weeks and I will consider these when the discussion for review comes to the council table. Many have suggested burying lines or doing more pro-active tree trimming. These may very well help but if we left it there then we are not looking at the source of the problem but managing the symptoms. The real culprit in outage situations is climate change. We will continue to experience more extreme weather systems if we do not change our lifestyles by reducing the use of fossil fuels that cause an increased level of atmospheric carbon dioxide. If we continue to ignore the cause and effect of using fossil fuels, there will be further severe weather events. Extreme weather means not only power outage from severe storms but also polar caps melting, water levels rising causing floods, drought from lack of rain and extreme heat for prolonged periods of time.
The city of Ottawa has already recognized and declared a climate emergency but unless we implement changes to reduce our emissions, we will see further consequences. I believe we are already moving in this direction with an expanding transit system and active transportation infrastructure. I hope we can continue to work together to find ways to improve our city with positive changes for our communities and get through any stormy weather ahead.