LETTERS

Keeping the community in the loop on utility disruptions

Posted

To the Editor:
November is here and, with it, a taste of harsh, winter days ahead. I spoke recently about the problem of repeated power outages in my ward, but it’s happening throughout the city, state and region as storms and aging trees/infrastructure make us literally “powerless.” It’s also happening as utilities take to the streets to install new lines and repair existing ones.
So yes, two hours without power is a concern to me. It’s a concern because this occurred without an active storm, no snow or ice on the wires, without high winds or without an explanation from anyone. This isn’t about one two-hour power outage, it’s about repeated power outages throughout the city, some of which have lasted for days. This is about a disruption in people’s lives without them having the opportunity to make adjustments in schedules. Sometimes advance notice is not possible with power outages, water line breaks, gas leaks etc but oftentimes it is possible. Especially when its preventative maintenance that is being done, which we all know is so badly needed with our infrastructure.
Whether you believe in climate change or not, you know what it’s like when you’re without heat, light, and refrigeration for any length of time. Food spoils, businesses close down, workers lose wages, small business owners lose revenue, and the city and the state lose income. There’s also real danger in power outages: fires and carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn to candles or gas heaters for light or heat. Buying and using generators is also costly and a problem to use, for some. They can also be dangerous to our first responders when a generator is back feeding into what is supposed to be shut down power line.
Ask the folks in Greenwood, Chatham Village, Governor Francis Farms, Gaspee Plateau, Buttonwoods, Warwick Neck or any neighborhood if they’ve lost power in the last five to 10 years, if it was inconvenient. Almost everybody will agree and are happy to share their story.
Aging infrastructure and aging tree canopies are the chief causes of our outages, but not our frustration. We can prevent the inconvenience and make people feel included in the process. The National Grid, which works round-the-clock to repair aging lines and restore power does a great job of posting maps and information on restoration of power, but falls shy on giving residents, businesses and local governments a heads-up when power is expected to be cut for repairs or new installations.
Communication would go a long way towards keeping folks safe and allow them to prepare for outages or for water shut offs as well as gas shut offs. And it would reduce anxiety when these shut offs due occur. This would give everyone a heads-up on approximate times for outages and comfort in knowing it’s being fixed. It would also allow all of us affected to work as partners for a safer, better community. I for one would like to receive advanced notice when routine maintenance is going to take whether it be electric, gas or water repairs.
This would allow me to notify my local neighborhood associations, neighbors and friends living nearby. People need to get to work, they need to get their children to school, they need to get elderly parents to doctors and so much more. Its not a heavy lift to do what we can to keep folks notified when the game plan as we know it is going to change.
ROBO calls have been used for some far less disruptive things, why not use it for taking some of the stress out peoples daily lives.
So going forward, if you have a disruption in services whether it be loss power, gas, water, trash not picked up, pot holes not filled or any other concerns and you live in Ward 5 please call me at 401-447-7181 and let me know. By doing this you help me to do a better job of helping you.

Ed Ladouceur
Councilman Ward 5

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