Hurricane Survival

Keeping Bermuda switched on

How power company Belco plans for hurricane season
Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Belco powers Bermuda. During hurricane season, the electricity generator and grid manager routinely goes above and beyond to maintain power to the island, and restore lost power when high winds and violent weather have knocked our lights out.

Keeping Bermuda switched on is not a small task, and Belco has a few tips for property owners that will help us to help them get the job done. Shelly Leman, Belco’s managing director of transmission distribution and retail, provided a wealth of advice.

“It is paramount for customers to commence, and maintain, hurricane readiness throughout the entirety of the season, as it is of the utmost importance to do what we can – well in advance – to maintain safety and minimise destruction, danger and loss of power,” Ms Leman said.

“One of the most effective methods of maintaining storm readiness and safety is to trim trees back so that they are at least ten feet away from power lines. Fallen tree branches can pull down power lines and even entire utility poles. These downed lines pose a serious electrocution and fire hazard.

“Trimming trees can also reduce the risk of one of the most inconvenient parts of a hurricane: losing electricity. Most outages in Bermuda are caused by trees falling on power lines, even in years where Bermuda avoids a direct hit. By keeping trees trimmed at least 10 feet back from power lines, the majority of outages can be prevented.

“Belco is not responsible for trimming trees on private property. The sole responsibility for keeping trees trimmed and cut back from power lines lies with the property owners. It is critically important to remember that a power line’s electricity must be disconnected before trimming trees next to it. Belco and the customer will choose a date and start time, usually three weeks from the date of request. To schedule a temporary disconnection for tree trimming safety, property owners can call Belco at 295-5111, or e-mail [email protected] three weeks in advance.”

Bermuda’s power lines are exposed, so the prioritising of tree-trimming makes sense. Of course, even trimmed trees can still damage lines, and we have all seen viral videos of powerlines sparking and dancing in the wind over recent years – so do all you can to keep the lines as clear as possible.

The Belco plant is constantly running, and that doesn’t change before, during, or after a hurricane. Internal operations need to be sharp and polished if Bermuda is going to weather the storm and come through smiling. Hurricane season is when our electric light company shines brightest.

“At the start of the hurricane season, Belco ensures that internal emergency procedures are up to date.” Ms Leman said. “All departments within the company are involved, and each has a vital role to play.

“Belco implements a set of emergency procedures when a hurricane, or tropical storm, becomes a threat. Belco’s Crisis Management Team is activated, and meets regularly to monitor the approach of the storm, to execute pre-storm checklists, and ensure supplies are stored at strategic locations around the island in preparation for recovery efforts.

“In advance of a storm, and before weather conditions deteriorate, crews, trucks and equipment are positioned in the west, central and eastern parts of the island. If the Causeway is closed, crews and equipment are already stationed to the east of the Causeway so they can begin restoration efforts before it is reopened.”

Sparking lines is a testament to Belco’s desire to keep their clients powered up through any weather. To that end, they don’t shut off power to clients unless it’s absolutely necessary – and that includes during the restoration campaign.

“Before and during a storm, Belco never intentionally shuts off power to any customers,” Ms Leman said. “Any outages will be due to the impact of the storm. Once the storm has passed, and crews begin restoration work, there may be occasions where power needs to be shut off to some customers so that repairs can take place elsewhere on the grid.

“These outages are kept to a minimum, but at times are necessary to ensure the safety of Belco crews during restoration efforts.”

Belco says customers who require access to electricity for medical concerns should relocate during a storm if they have to. There is no way of knowing when power can be restored to every home, but the Belco team keeps working until all of Bermuda has power again.

“In the case of a storm, and the possibility of an extended power outage, Belco advises medical device-dependent customers to relocate themselves to a facility with backup power generation, such as King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, to ensure they have access to the care and resources they require,” Ms Leman said.

“Depending on the severity of the damage to the transmission and distribution system, Belco cannot guarantee electricity for the duration of the storm, and cannot guarantee when restoration to an individual home will be completed following the storm.

“Power is restored according to a specific plan. Main line circuits must be restored first so that branch lines can then be repaired in order for power to be restored to homes. If a customer has lost power, the main and branch lines must be repaired and energised before damage to a specific household can be fixed, or else there will be no power feeding into the lines that supply that home.”

Belco implores residents to avoid downed powerlines, as they may be live. Customers should also report outages, unplug devices and appliances before the storm hits, keep out of the way of Belco restoration crews, and monitor restoration campaign progress on, and their social media outlets.

Lastly, Belco greatly appreciates the encouragement and love their crews invariably receive from the community when they are out working tirelessly to get the power back on.

“During post-storm restoration efforts, the Belco team are always motivated by the community’s kindness and understanding,” Ms Leman said. “When people post words of encouragement on social media, or say ‘thanks’ to our working crews who are often working long hours in hot, humid conditions, the team are incredibly thankful.”

Write A Comment