City creates website power-outage, safety alerts

Three new pages offer safety and outage updates for Palo Altans

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 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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm

If they actually work (which they may not during a power outage), this is excellent news. But why wasn't something like this up and running years ago?

Like this comment
Posted by NotSurprised
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm

No good deed goes unpunished, eh, Bill?

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Just tried the "planned and unplanned service disruptions" webpage.

This is what I got:


"Page not found!
The following page could not be found on our site:

Web Link

It appears that the site has a bad link to our site.

Please either search for the page using the search above.

For the Site Map click here.

You can help us out and report report the missing page by clicking here."


Why am I not surprised?

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 12, 2010 at 9:08 pm

And then the power goes out in University
South and the webite says there is no outage.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I would prefer to get text CANS messages, but they would have to be area specific.

As some have said, many can't access the website if they don't have power.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, you have to know that you don't have power to start looking. If you are at work or out buying groceries, you can change your plans while you are out, work late, delay buying groceries, eat before you get home, etc. If you don't know until you get home then you may have to put perishables in a powerless refrigerator or go straight back out to eat.

Like this comment
Posted by BP Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2010 at 7:08 am

Maybe I'm a little slow, but how does all this answer my question about why nobody answers the phone number listed for Electric Outages? Can't they at least have a recording, if they aren't going to answer the phone?
No power means no website, so that's useless for me and not everybody has a smartphone -is that now a prerequisite for living in P.A?
Sometimes the low-tech solution is the best solution.

Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2010 at 9:54 am

Now when the power is out, how will it work? Call a friend, why not then have a phone in number? You friend could call for you? I guess

Like this comment
Posted by Moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

Free iPhones for all!

Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

Moi, We can have the Sheriff's helicopter deliver then to all the homes, one at a time. Something like this,"Come out with your hands up and get your I Phone"

Like this comment
Posted by Debra Katz
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 13, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I work for the City Utilities Department and wanted to speak to the comments about telephone access during an outage. Currently our emergency lines are answered by the staff that is also handling the investigation of the outage and restoration of power. This is done on purpose since callers can often help identify the location and nature of the problem. However, there is a limit to how many calls can be handled at once. At night, there is an answering system that can handle more calls at once but there is a limit there as well. In both cases, as soon as possible we place a recorded message on the line that lets callers know we are aware of the outage, but if there are many others calling right when you do, you may still get a busy signal.

Even if you do not have access to our website and can't get through when you call, be assured that we are aware of the problem and working to get it solved as fast as possible. If there is going to be a major or long-term outage, the media will be notified as well so it will be on the news.

Like this comment
Posted by Sonny
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm

How would anyone get info about a power outage from the news when there is no power?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Since landlines are unlikely to work (unless you have an old cord phone) the best way to get the message out is text messaging to your cell.

Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Sonny - maybe that's why we're told to put a transistor radio and batteries in emergency kits, TO GET NEWS WHEN THE POWER IS OUT.

Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2010 at 9:13 am

Ms Katz, it sure sucks having to come up with stories to cover for a City that is so incompetent and wasteful with the TAX Payers funding. It really sucked when I would have to talk with the public, they think hey this is Palo Alto and listening to what the City tells us it is the best in everything. The City sure does spend the most money.
Like the Cities high tech way of communication, except when the string between the 2 cans breaks then you find out they spent 250K on that string and 2 cans.

Like this comment
Posted by Sonny
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 14, 2010 at 11:08 am

Good one! But the real questions still remains--Why are there so many power outages?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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