Outage puts care home in the cold
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Residents of the personal care home in Carberry had to be moved to a central location in the facility when the power and heat went out for four hours on Monday morning, one of the coldest mornings that Manitoba has endured this year.
When the power went out at the Carberry Plains Health Centre — which is attached to the personal care home — the temperature was -29 C, with the wind chill making it feel like -42 C. The generator kicked in, but it didn’t trigger the heat, said a staff member who answered the phone when the Sun called to ask about the power outage.
“We do have a generator, but apparently we can’t make the heat work for the care home residents, so we have them all in the dining room together,” said the staff member, who didn’t identify herself over the phone.
Bill Kalinowich, who has lived in Carberry for more than 40 years, said the power went out about 6:30 a.m. on Monday, and for the next three to four hours, the lights flickered on and off until power was restored. He saw no reason to be alarmed.
“They have an emergency generator at the hospital, so I don’t see that as a big problem,” said Kalinowich, who is Carberry’s deputy mayor. “The generator is for people who really need the power. The rest of us can manage — we can always put a sweater or jacket on.”
Manitoba Hydro provided advanced warning about the power outage for the Carberry Plains Health Centre, said a spokesperson for Prairie Mountain Health, adding the generator had no reported issues. But because of the backup power setup, there were only limited electrical services.
Staff members at the personal care home acted quickly and followed the emergency response plan and moved residents to the dining room.
“Staff worked to maintain client care, which included temperature and client monitoring and then relocation of the long-term care clients to the dining room, which had sufficient resources to maintain heat and keep everyone warm and secure,” the spokesperson said.
Defective equipment is being blamed for the power outage that began at 6:15 a.m. and lasted until 10:30 a.m., affecting 1,381 Manitoba Hydro customers in Carberry.
The problem was an automatic high voltage electric switch called a viper or automatic circuit recloser, which is much like the circuit breaker in people’s homes. The viper is designed to fix itself, but in this instance it did not, and had to be replaced.
Cold weather created challenges in isolating and then fixing the problem, but the frigid temperatures were not to blame for the outage, according to Manitoba Hydro.
“When it’s cold out like this, people are using more electricity than they normally would,” said Bruce Owen, Hydro’s media relations officer. “That may have put additional stress on the system, and at the same time this piece of equipment may have been defective for months already, and it just took today for it to cease operating as it should.”
Power outages do happen, Kalinowich said, but fortunately they don’t happen very often in Carberry.
Even so, Owen said this is a good reminder that outages can happen at any time of the year and can last longer than just a few hours, cautioning Manitobans to always be prepared.