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I, like many, suffered a power cut on the night of 23/24 December and I was pleased to say that we were only without power for about 12 hours and therefore although I had put some contingencies in place, our Christmas celebrations were uneventful and the 12 family members sat down to the traditional Christmas lunch.

However, the events regarding our loss of power did make me wonder where corporate responsibility now lies. Our power went off shortly after we had gone to bed and as we do live in a rural location short power cuts are not unusual, but when power was still not restored at 4am, I went just to check that it was not a case of a trip having gone, again not unusual if there has been a problem in one of the out houses. I confirmed that all trips where OK so concluded it must be a power cut.  Because we are only one of four properties served by an overhead line, you then wonder if anyone is aware at the electricity company of our problem.

So with the trusty smart phone I log onto the internet and seek out my local provider who have a page "Live updates - Power cuts" which to my surprise showed no faults reported in any of the areas supplied by the company. There was, however, a link to report a fault which I duly did. It was, however, after doing this I noticed their news page and on it were two press releases issued that night, the first reading:-

SEPD engineers working to restore power in south of England

23 Dec 2013

Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD) engineers and support staff have been working throughout the afternoon in challenging conditions to repair damage to the electricity network caused by gales across the region.

Currently, around 27,000 homes are without power in the SEPD area which covers from Yeovil in Somerset to West London and from Oxfordshire to the Isle of Wight.  The areas affected by power loss include rural areas around the following locations:

Aldershot   13,000
Basingstoke   550
New Forest   2,900
Newbury   600
Oxford    3,500
Petersfield   1,300
Poole    450
Reading   2,400
Yeovil    400
Various other locations 1,900

SEPD engineers are making good progress, restoring supplies in several areas as the wind has abated for the time being. Repairs will continue throughout the evening and we aim to have the majority of customers' power restored tonight. It is anticipated that further strong winds and rain will affect the region overnight and this may cause further damage to the network.

As well as engineers restoring supplies, SEPD has also undertaken a number of further measures for customers:

  • Calls being made to vulnerable customers to give reassurance and help;

  • Additional staff available on standby; and

  • Extra call handlers available to talk to customers who may have lost electricity supply and give advice

And the second one

SEPD engineers continue to restore power in challenging conditions

23 Dec 2013

Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD) engineers have made progress in repairing damage to the electricity network across central-southern England throughout Monday evening. High winds and heavy rain continue to gust across the region and conditions remain extremely challenging with trees being uprooted in many areas. A combination of poor weather conditions and fallen trees have also made for some extremely challenging driving conditions.

Engineers and support staff will continue to restore power overnight through switching operations, however repairs, particularly those that require engineers to climb poles, will recommence when wind speeds reduce and it is safe to do so.

These were subsequent to two earlier press releases saying how they were preparing for the gales due and how they had staff on high alert so as to be able to help customers as quickly as possible.

I fully understand that problems such as this happen, that it can take time to repair faults especially when we have adverse weather and I am sure that their engineers were working as best they were able, but one of the biggest complaints we hear from customers is being kept in the dark (pun intended!). Visiting the website today and their live power cuts page lists the areas, by post code, that have problems, but on a night when problems were widespread they report no problems reported, but have got staff busily sending out press releases for the media. I appreciate that there may have been more faults than they could list - so why not say so. All I wanted to know was if there was a problem in my area and had it been reported but it seems the extra staff brought in on the website were just for media purposes not for customer information. How many phone calls/emails did they receive from people like me who just did not know if their problem had been reported?

Jonathan Russell





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