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.