In an effort to communicate better with residents about utility interruptions and safety advisories, the City of Palo Alto has announced the addition of three new pages to its website.
One of the city's new pages provides the http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/depts/utl/news/details.asp?NewsID=1234&TargetID=235 latest information on current utility outages.
A second page provides information on planned and unplanned service disruptions in water, natural gas and electric.
The third page provides advisories and updates on safety regarding utilities, including water and gas leaks, as well as electrical and sewage safety information.
Palo Alto residents have complained recently that the city's means of informing people about utility outages are inadequate.
"During last month's power outage in Barron Park, many people could not find info on the city's website because it was buried deep and because the website is not designed to be navigated by the typical smart phone (pre-iPhone4 screen size) and is very slow because it doesn't avoid downloading the large aesthetic (non-functional) graphics," said Doug Moran, of Barron Park, in an e-mail.
That Sept. 24 power outage affected more than 1,700 homes and Gunn High School.
At the time, one resident of Barron Park wrote on the Palo Alto Online Town Square forum, "I called the City's phone number for reporting outages at least 10 times between 3:30 and 4:30. I received a busy signal every time. Can't we do better than that?"
Joyce Kinnear, manager of Palo Alto Utilities Marketing Services, explained that the website additions will help people find the details more easily.
"The information was already there in several items on our website, but we wanted to make it easier to see and understand the information in an easy and accessible way," she said.
Not everyone is sold on posting information on the city's website. One Barron Park resident said about the Sept. 24 outage that it was useless to have an online notice because she was unable to access the Internet without power.
Kinnear said residents can also call the city's dispatch center (650-329-2579) if they are unable to access the website.