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Quick Tips To Deliver Great Customer Communications During Public Safety Power Shutoffs

August 10, 2023

Since March 2023, extreme weather and, more specifically, lightning strikes have triggered thousands of wildfires across Canada. These ongoing wildfires have affected all thirteen provinces, resulting in poor air quality that threatens vulnerable people and dampens summer activities. Though not over yet, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre has already declared the 2023 wildfire season as the worst in Canada's recorded history. Unfortunately, this is likely to become commonplace rather than an anomaly. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has stated that climate change is leading to an increase in wildfire season length, frequency, and burned area.

While utilities can’t control catastrophes like these, they can focus on the safety of their customers living in areas prone to wildfires. One way of ensuring safety is implementing a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). PSPS is a practice where utilities temporarily cut off electricity to certain areas or communities during specific weather conditions. This is done to mitigate the risk of power lines and other electrical equipment from igniting fires during extreme weather and environmental conditions, such as high winds, low humidity, and dry vegetation. 

Providing great customer communications during a PSPS can go a long way in not only maintaining your customers' safety but also reducing frustration and ensuring that they are well-prepared for any service disruptions. Here are some ways to effectively communicate with your customers during a PSPS.

Communicate Early, Clearly, and Effectively

Best practices recommend notifying customers well before any potential PSPS, as early as 48 hours before the service disruption. At this time, you will also want to explain why you’ve initiated a PSPS, such as extreme weather or potential wildfire risk. Use all your communication channels, including text messages, emails, phone calls, social media, website updates, and local news outlets. And be sure it’s two-way communication. Let customers provide feedback and submit inquiries through hotlines, emails, or social media to address concerns and provide real-time assistance. Leveraging tools like Notifi®, KUBRA’s alerts and preference management platform, can help utility companies meet some of these goals. With Notifi’s broadcast tool, utility companies can instantly send messages to all registered customer contacts in the Notifi system.

Provide Resources To Keep Customers Informed

While sending out communication alerts can actively keep customers informed, it’s important to ensure that customers are passively receiving updates as well. What does this mean? It’s making sure customers receive outage updates about a PSPS without having to go looking for the information. When they receive updates via text or email, they don’t have to call your call centers for information, greatly reducing your call volumes. This allows your customer support team to dedicate time to customers who need more support than others.

Outage maps are a great way to make sure customers receive updates about PSPS-caused outages on their laptops, personal computers, and handheld devices. Storm Center™, KUBRA’s interactive outage map solution, effectively updates customers on the information they need when they need it. With Storm Center’s Additional Map Layers module, utilities can share information about hazards, planned work, wildfire advisories, gas outages, and more through their outage maps.

Keeping Customers Informed and Safe

Making sure you communicate effectively with customers during a PSPS is crucial. It not only helps keep them safe but also helps them deal with any service disruptions smoothly. Like PSPS, weather-related outages also require utilities to provide great customer communications. Click here to learn more about what your utility can do to prepare its outage communications before, during, and after a storm.

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