Some 60% of British Columbians aren’t ready to handle prolonged power outages resulting from harsher weather patterns, according to a new BC Hydro survey.
As well, the survey found that half of British Columbians don't have a storm preparedness kit, and of those without one, only 12% plan to buy one this year.
The report said that in the past four years, British Columbians have experienced two of the largest individual storm events in BC Hydro history. Each caused extensive damage to the province’s electrical system, resulting in over 700,000 losing power.
Data from 2018 shows customers, on average, experienced more storm-related power outages than ever before, with adverse weather and trees and vegetation coming into contact with BC Hydro equipment, causing customers to lose power for over 11 million hours last year —more than double the five-year average of 5 million hours per year.
The December 2018 storm caused unprecedented system damage, leaving about 750,000 customers without power. About 7% of impacted customers were without power for more than 72 hours.
“The survey found the majority of those impacted by the December 2018 storm felt they could have been more prepared for the storm,” the report said. “However, only half have taken steps to be more prepared for winter storms this year.”
Province-wide, tree-related outages in 2018 were 29% higher than the five-year average.
Broken down by region, those numbers are:
• Up 100% on Vancouver Island;
•Up 16% for the Lower Mainland; and
•Down 13% in the North, Central and South Interior.
The provincial utility suggested people prepare for storm-related power outages by having a fully stocked emergency kit including a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, needed medications, non-perishable food, 72 hours worth of bottled water for each household member and warm clothing and blankets
BC Hydro also suggested people stay away from downed power lines, as there is no way to determine if one is live or not.
BC Hydro said it continues to prepare for storm season year-round using new technology and processes to improve response times.
The online survey of 800 British Columbians was done Oct. 16-21.
The Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia released by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in July said increasing extreme weather events in coming years could cause disruptions to power transmission, transportation and water; other infrastructure services could last for weeks depending on the severity of flood damage and number of people affected, causing a major impediment to day-to-day life.