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Hydro-Québec’s Emergency Response Plan

Hydro-Québec is a government-owned corporation established in 1944 by the government of Premier Adélard Godbout. It generates, transmits and distributes electricity from its hydroelectric generating stations, serving millions of customers located mainly in northeastern North America.

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Hydro-Québec crews were overwhelmed by the damage to their network from the ice storm, working 12 to 16 hour days. They quickly asked for reinforcements from less-affected regions, such as Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, the Saguenay region, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Even with such incredible cooperation, this help was not enough, and  authorities turned to the United States. Power companies in New England sent 1,200 people, and crews also arrived from Pennsylvania and from even as far as Texas. In addition, many retired Hydro-Québec employees quickly offered to go back to work when they saw that their former employer needed them. Missions and teams were organized and assigned tasks in different sectors. The utility Detroit Edison, for example, had 70 line crews working in the Farnham area.

André Caillé, Hydro-Québec’s CEO at the time, chose a transparent approach to the crisis, sharing his “reconnection plan” during a daily 4:00 pm press conference, also attended by the Premier. The Francophone spokesperson for the company, Steve Flanagan, would then pass on this information through radio or TV interviews. Every morning and evening, a new plan was drawn up based on the reconnections already made and the objectives set for the next 12 hours. After each conference, Caillé would go out in the field to discuss matters with his team and observe the extent of the destruction.

HQ’s Industrial Security unit also went to work. Its security guards were tasked with keeping the public away from damaged facilities and guarding HQ customer service offices to prevent assaults by customers, who were more likely to react in this way given the situation.

It was Hydro-Québec’s more than 10,000 employees, with huge help from outside, who helped to restore electricity so quickly to our households. They gave up their sleep and families to work day and night to achieve the incredible feat of reconnecting over a million households in the relatively short time of five weeks.

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