CUC power failure: Communications blackout

Last Friday morning, we were all left in the dark.

We’re not referring just to the island-wide power outage that impacted thousands of homes and businesses (and stopped our beloved air conditioners and ceiling fans) for several hours, but to the lack of communication from Caribbean Utilities Company, which, as if our readers needed reminding, has a government-arranged monopoly on commercial electricity generation and distribution in Grand Cayman.

First, notwithstanding Friday’s power outage, CUC overall has an excellent record in terms of making electricity available to consumers. That assertion is backed up by statistics: According to CUC’s 2014 annual report, the energy provider was able to keep the power on 99.96 percent of the time.

However, during that relatively minuscule amount of time when CUC power is not available, the economic activity of the country practically grinds to a halt, which is a far more serious consequence than the concurrent spike in human perspiration.

In mid-April, following a similarly widespread power outage that affected consumers from West Bay to East End, this Editorial Board wrote, “It behooves our utility company to be on its game this summer – with real-time information updates and, of course, expeditious technical solutions (which have always been CUC’s greatest strength.)”

We won’t nitpick CUC about how long the power was out Friday, or why – from all appearances utility workers responded promptly, en masse, to fix whatever the problem was, as quickly as possible. Frankly, we’re not experts on the provision of electricity. We do, though, know a little something about communications, and that was CUC’s biggest failure on Friday morning.

We exempt from this criticism (and indeed, praise for her steadfast efforts) CUC spokeswoman Pat Bynoe-Clarke, who as usual was responsive, professional and courteous under pressure. She provided our reporters with the information she had, when she had it.

But that’s small consolation for the thousands of people in Grand Cayman who aren’t members of the media, and don’t have access to the CUC spokeswoman’s direct email or mobile number. (Don’t worry, Ms. Bynoe-Clarke, we won’t reveal that information in this space!)

What CUC needs to do is make information available, especially during widespread power outages, directly to members of the public, AKA its customers, using technologies such as the Internet and telephones. People ought to be able to check CUC’s website for updates, most importantly when the power should come back on and what areas are affected, or better yet, call an easy-to-remember hotline in order to reach a living human being, if only to be able to vent frustrations and get some personally tailored reassurance.

It may not help get the electricity on any faster, but it would help a lot of people feel a little better about facing a long, dark and hot wait. 

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  1. Well I can’t speak for anybody else, but I received a text message about 11.00am from LIME " on behalf of CUC " confirming teams were restoring power as quickly as possible and should be completed in two hours. Power was indeed back by about 12.00 pm. I am located at Secret Garden on Fairbanks Road. That seems like pretty good communication.

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  2. This power black out is very shameful and disgraceful, for the Island to be kept in the dark for about 11 hours, because of lack of communication from C U C , and disrespect from the Government to the people of Cayman, and to understand that the premier was on radio talking about his own accomplishments, leave me to wonder how the Islands and the people would be handled in a real disaster.

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  3. Again I would like to say how valuable the Cayman Compass is to people and the Islands, by writing this editorial you will see C U C and Government up their game in communication when real disaster happen again. Again let’s ask ourselves the question how many of us have gone to Government and C U C and demand better communication during a disaster.

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  4. This is why we need a strong and technically savvy ERA. We do not. We need a team who knows as much about power generation and transmission as the CUC does. If we don’t have them, let’s find them and FAST!

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