Failure of more than just power

2011-05-11 00:00

BRITAIN has the weather; Hilton had, until a few weeks ago — the mist. Now this has all changed and Hilton has the electricity or the lack of it. Hilton's electrical problems have become the major talking point at all gatherings, in all queues, in fact just about everywhere.

Previously, the extent of my electrical knowledge was very limited and basic. If you had paid your account, then electricity came out of the plug sockets. If there was no electricity and the account had been paid, you then checked with your neighbours to see if they had the same problem. If they did, you gave a great sigh of relief — "Great, it's not just me."

Over the past couple of weeks, my knowledge and, I imagine, that of most other Hilton residents, has grown exponentially. We all talk about phases, the blue-and-white lines. We have discovered that when one phase is not working, the problems affect about every third house in all areas, as opposed to a total switch-off when nobody has power.

Once the initial learning curve was over, the frustration and rage set it. We discovered at a public meeting that I called a full year ago that no maintenance had been done for almost 10 years. The fact that, despite promises, nothing had been done to rectify the situation in the past year came to light in a Witness report on May 1.

The greatest frustration for everyone is not knowing when the power cuts will occur and how long they will last.

The Msunduzi mayor, Mike Tarr, told me one evening that there was a problem because one phase was down and that to fix it, the whole area of Hilton, Winterskloof and parts of Sweetwaters was going to be switched off at 9 pm for a couple of hours. I sent this information out to 50 friends as an SMS and asked them to forward it to

other residents. I was amazed at how quickly the news spread and how people appreciated knowing the when, why and how long details.

Communication of this sort of information is what residents need. Phoning the emergency number does little to alleviate the frustration. However, a recorded message giving relevant details of the cause of the cut and the anticipated length of time until the power is restored, would go a long way to calming the situation. Of course, the emergency number is phoned only after the electricity has gone off.

A scheduled shutdown with a day's notice can be communicated via the press as was done last week. Okay, so the Msunduzi Municipality got it wrong and the two hours turned out to be 22. I don't think it will do this again, so let's forgive it and move on.

We need to be able to com-municate quickly when an unscheduled power cut is to take place.

I would imagine that when the work of renewing the lines starts in a few weeks time, we will have more power cuts both scheduled and unscheduled.

The viral SMS system for unscheduled power cuts seemed to work exceptionally well. I do

really have 50 friends, so, provided I receive the information, I will continue to send out SMSes with information to keep everyone's blood pressure within an acceptable range.

• Pam Passmoor is a Democratic Alliance Hilton councillor.

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