As we move into the fall of 2017, we can look back on a summer that brought a wide range of unseasonable weather. The past several months in Ontario have seen stretches of chill, wind, heavy rain, and sometimes all three at once. This inclement weather disrupted more than just vacations this season: it also posed a number of challenges to local distribution companies (LDCs) and disrupted power in hard-hit areas across the province.

PowerAssist, Util-Assist’s 24×7 outage call centre service, was put to the test in early June when heavy storms swept into the Algoma Power service territory, including areas around Sault Ste. Marie, St. Joseph Island, Desbarats and Bruce Mines. PowerAssist, which went live for Algoma Power customers last year, was standing by when high winds and heavy rains struck Algoma Power service territory on Sunday June 11, 2017, first in the late afternoon and again after midnight. The severe storms caused significant damage and prolonged outages as winds of up to 96 km/h downed trees and power lines, leaving approximately 6,000 people without power.

Algoma Power—a subsidiary of FortisOntario Inc.—is based out of Sault Ste. Marie and faces unique restoration challenges as roadway access to its 1,800 kilometers of line is limited and frequently obstructed by fallen trees. With the PowerAssist agents addressing customer calls and providing live support and updates, Algoma Power personnel were able to focus on the coordination of restoration efforts, which lasted until Tuesday of that week. The PowerAssist team helped track the outages, provided restoration estimates to customers, and relayed important information to the utility teams.

Scott Hawkes, president and CEO of FortisOntario, called Util-Assist to thank the PowerAssist team for their efforts, and followed his call with a written letter of appreciation. In the letter, Mr. Hawkes commended the PowerAssist team, stating that, “their persistent efforts and spirit in efficiently handling the high volume of calls and providing updated information regarding crew location and estimation of power restoration demonstrated remarkable teamwork, dedication and commitment under challenging conditions.”

Util-Assist is proud of the PowerAssist team’s accomplishments and is pleased that it has once again proven it is up to the challenge of keeping customers and utilities informed during extreme weather and outage events.

The PowerAssist service received additional praise and was featured in an article in the Summer 2017 edition of The Distributor magazine, a publication issued by the Electricity Distributors Association in Ontario. The article highlights PowerAssist’s history and development, its key benefits, and the role it plays in the future of outage management strategies. An online version of the magazine can be viewed here: