Storm: Enersource sees power of social media during blackouts

This article was originally published at YourMississaugaBiz.com.At one point during last night’s heavy rains and flooding, Mississauga power distributor Enersource reported 80 percent of Mississauga was without electricity.

But staff at Enersource got to work quickly, co-ordinating 30 emergency employees and keeping in touch with their many anxious customers through social media.

“There were extra crews, communications people, customer service reps that were brought in to help clear all the calls coming into the control room, senior managers and executives, and seven control room operators that were key in helping reroute and bring out system our backup online,” Director of Corporate Relations Karen Ras told YourMississaugaBiz.com.

Last night Enersource lost its supply from Hydro One, resulting in the major loss of electricity across Mississauga. Its transmission stations near Pearson International Airport and one near Highway 427 and the QEW had also been affected by the heavy amount of rainfall.

The lack of functioning stoplights caused further delays for Enersource’s repair crews.

“Any first responder in a case like this has to take into account [that] to get to the location, they have to go through all the obstacles residents are trying to deal with,” Ras said.

Despite this, Ras and her communications staff tried to continually update customers, politicians and the media, tweeting about the location of power outages, responding to questions, and offering flashlight tips and the occasional joke.

Ras said it was a strategy born of the results of customer satisfaction surveys that asked for more ‘accurate and timely’ information during outages. “What better than to use the tools you have through social media?”

The move definitely paid off. Last night messages from Enersource’s official Twitter account (@enersourcenews) were quickly picked up and retweeted by politicians including Ward 5 councilor Bonnie Crombie, media outlets and Mississauga residents.

They gained more than 2,000 followers.

Most importantly, Ras and her colleagues, Steve Scott and Sean Guedes, were able to monitor reports of outages, quickly respond directly to questions and still provide updates even when Enersource’s own website went down around 9 p.m.

While the team sent out dozens of tweets throughout the night, Ras admitted they had to do it in shifts and resorted to some pretty extreme measures to keep people informed. “I was sitting in my car at 2 o’clock in the morning last night,” she said with a laugh, referring to her dying cellphone.

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