‘Absolutely outrageous:’ Business calls out Nova Scotia Power for poor communication

Click to play video: 'Emergency power outage in Chester, N.S. affects businesses'
Emergency power outage in Chester, N.S. affects businesses
It was a disappointing weekend for some businesses in Nova Scotia. An emergency power outage in Chester Friday night put many of the grid at a key point for sales. Those businesses say communication needs to be better, and Nova Scotia Power agrees. Callum Smith reports. – Sep 25, 2023

It was a disappointing weekend for some businesses on Nova Scotia’s south shore, with one owner describing a power outage and Nova Scotia Power’s communication as “absolutely outrageous.”

The Chester Playhouse was set to host its first event — a sold-out James Mullinger comedy show at 7:30 p.m. Friday — since June of 2021 when fire ripped through the building, causing extensive damage.

But it wasn’t the return the Playhouse was hoping for.

“We were just beginning our fall season with this show on Friday which did not quite go as normal as planned,” Andrew Chandler, the executive director, said on Monday. “But we’re going to get there one of these days.”

A burnt power pole near Chester, N.S. caused damage that prompted an emergency outage Friday. Courtesy: NS Power

An emergency power outage was required that same day, according to Nova Scotia Power.

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The outage was originally set for 1 p.m. Friday, as stated in a 12:06 p.m. social media post.  

Chandler said they only learned of the news when the post was forwarded to them.

“We had no other indication that this was happening,” he said.

Emergency outage and N.S. Power apology

After searching on social media, Chandler learned the outage had been delayed until 5 p.m., “which was exactly when we were going to be starting to let people in, setting up our bar and getting ready to run the show that evening.”

It was expected to last three hours. Automated calls went out to businesses who spoke to Global News at around 3:30 to 4 p.m.

“We absolutely understand that emergencies happen,” Chandler said. “Our issue was that the way that it was communicated, only posting it on (X, formerly known as Twitter) was not at all effective in getting the word out to us, which prevented us from getting the word out to our patrons in time.”

In the end, the lights stayed off in the area from 5 p.m. to almost midnight.

“We were doing proactive patrols of the area after Tropical Storm Lee,” said Chris Lanteigne, director of customer care for Nova Scotia Power on wh y the outage was necessary.

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“A helicopter patrol noticed that the transmission lines on one of the pools there was actually burn damage that was affecting the pole and the equipment. So, in the interests of public safety, we knew that we needed to repair that equipment right away.”

The pole and line in question was in the woods, so the utility had to use special equipment to access the site and repair it, said Lanteigne.

He apologized multiple times in a 10-minute interview with Global News Monday, vowing to do better.

“We do apologize that they had to have this outage,” he said.

We have learned some things about the communication and we’re going to focus on doing a better job the next time of getting accurate timeframes up to customers as soon as we know the full situation.”

Taproom powers through

It’s been a difficult summer for some tourism-dependent businesses, such as Tanner & Co. Brewing, thanks in large part to weather.

“A week ago, we had the hurricane and obviously lost power and had to shut down for that,” said owner Dan Tanner. “All the rain we had throughout the summer kind of slowed us down.”

So, with some flashlights, and a cell phone to power the point-of-sale system, the taproom stayed open on Friday night.

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“We decided let’s just keep open and do our thing and continue on because we need to at this point,” Tanner said.

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