Thank you for your letter dated 21 September 1999
in which you requested a report setting out the essential details
of events relating to the most recent storm which occurred over
the weekend of 17-19 September.
The storm provided a meaningful test of many of the
measures we have put in place to improve our response to supply
interruptions caused by severe weather. We are pleased to report
that the results validate the effectiveness of the actions we
have taken since the Boxing Day storm in the critical areas of
communications with customers, internal mobilisation and escalation,
and restoration of supplies. On the whole, we thought media reaction
was reasonably balanced and reflected our improved management
of the event.
In summary there were 7,000 customers interruptions
at the peak of the disruption and in total around 18,000 customers
had their supplies interrupted at some stage over the period.
78% of supplies were restored within 3 hours and 99.70% within
24 hours. Specific details are given in Appendix A.
Communications with Customers
Call handling capacity
Our call handling capacity was increased to 42 from
07.30 hrs on Saturday, 18 September, which included 30 call handlers
spread across our 5 main Customer Service Centres. In total 5,520
calls were answered on our 0345 number and 82% of calls were answered
by call handlers and the remainder by Message Linkwhich
operated satisfactorily and was updated at regular intervals.
The "hotline" for elected representatives was also available,
however our Customer Service Centres did not receive any calls
on these lines.
Information to call handlers
We are satisfied that the modifications we have made
to the process of obtaining information from the field and its
dissemination across the organisation meant that our call handlers
had a better quality of information available to them to pass
on to customers. The Incident Room was able to update the call
centres with regular bulletins.
Critical Care Register
Our Critical Care Response Units were established
as soon as the incident was declared. They were in contact with
17 customers on the Critical Care Register that were affected
by the storm (the Critical Care Register is for customers with
life supporting electrical equipment and there are currently 855
In addition they were in contact with 5 customers
with Life Supporting Electrical Equipment who were also affected
but were not on our Critical Care Register. These customers have
since been added.
We plan to promote the Critical Care Register at
the beginning of November and have been working closely with the
Health Boards on this (they have agreed to actively promote the
register with their patients).
This will help us ensure that we have a comprehensive
register of customers with life supporting equipment available,
that we will contact during any future storms.
Vital Services and Key Customers
When HV circuit failures were identified a check
was made to identify any vital sites and key customers affected.
One vital site was notified of an interruptionDoE Water
at Glenavy where supplies were restored within 8 hours.
Comprehensive and regular updates were provided to
the media including a precautionary warning issued in advance
on Friday. In total some 11 press releases were issued. We issued
bulletins within 30 minutes after each significant fault was reported,
and an update once that fault was restored. BBC carried updates
on their local news programmes every hour with updates on Ceefax,
and Radio Downtown carried hourly broadcasts.
Restoration of Supplies
In accordance with our revised Emergency Plan, and
on account of Met Office weather warnings for widespread gusts
of 45 knots throughout Saturday with isolated gusts up to 55 knots,
the Duty Incident Manager initiated a "Level 1 mobilisation"
and our new Incident Centre at Craigavon was manned from 07.30
hours on Saturday. The appropriate resources for emergency response
had been alerted on Friday and those resources were quickly mobilised
The Incident Centre successfully collated information
flows from Control Centres, Customer Service Centres and field
staff. Our new Customer Service Centre Managers ensured that the
Emergency Plan was implemented in each location.
The effectiveness of the restoration effort can be
seen in that 78% of supplies were restored within 3 hours and
99.70% within 24 hours. Of the 18,000 supplies which were interrupted,
only a relatively small number of customersaround 55were
without supply for longer than 24 hours.
In the event, information from the Met Office confirmed
actual wind speeds frequently gusting to over 50 knots across
Northern Ireland on Saturday between 09.00 and 18.00 hours. The
maximum gust recorded was 55 knots. Winds decreased from 18.00
In total there were 63 HV faults and 140 LV faults.
Of the 63 HV faults, 54 were on the 11 kV rural circuits. 61%
of faults were on non-refurbished lines with 70% of all faults
attributable to damage from Wind and Trees. The first HV fault
occurred at 10.00 hrs in Dungannon followed by successive faults
in Craigavon, Newry and Ballymena. Fewer faults developed in Campsie,
Enniskillen, Omagh and Bangor.
This indicates a "band" of wind across
the Province from SW to NE.
Our analysis of the performance of refurbished circuits
vs non-refurbished circuits shows evidence of the effectiveness
of the refurbishment programme in improving the resilience of
the network to storm conditions. Further details are provided
in the Appendix B.
Guaranteed Standards/Goodwill Payments
Some 55 customers in the Craigavon area were without
supply for longer than 24 hours and to date 6 claims for payments
under GS2 have been made.
I hope this report, which is summarised in statistical
form in the Appendix, gives Ofreg increased confidence in the
effectiveness of the measures NIE has, and is continuing to put
in place. We are confident in our improved ability to manage future
emergencies. The commitment which NIE's MD Harry McCrackenis
giving to all our customers in our new Customer Charter is that
"NIE staff will be working night and day doing everything
humanly possible to keep any interruption whatever the cause to
an absolute minimum".
We will be pleased to respond to any queries you
may have on this report.