POWERED UP: Here’s the questions to ask for effective power cut comms

Last time widespread power cuts swept the UK in thwe 1970s Slade were at number one and news came from a paper shop and John Craven on the telly.

Fifty years on this is a bit more of a challenge and once again we’re in new territory.

The good people of the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group ran through the issue at the suggestion of the excellent Sara Hamilton. 

What became clear is that there are few answers but a lot of questions to ask.

Here some of them are…

The power cuts themselves

  • Where do the cuts take place and how long for?
  • Will there be advanced notice?  
  • What standard winter reassurance messages do you already have? 
  • What do the energy providers say about if cuts will take place?
  • What happens if the power cuts cut through local authority areas?
  • What is UK Government saying about the cuts?
  • What is devolved government saying if you like in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland? 

Comms team staffing issues

  • What happens if some – but not all – staff in an area where there’s a power cut?
  • Where will staff go – if anywhere – when there’s a power cut? 
  • Will there be enough staff to monitor and respond to social media especially if the website goes down?
  • Will staff have to make-up any time list to the power cuts?
  • Are you prepared for an avalanche of questions and abuse on the socials?

Organisational operational issues

  • Are you plugged into the Local Resilience Forum or equivalent?
  • Are there business continuity plans in your organisation which set out the impact of power cuts? 
  • What will be open and closed? 
  • What will your staff be told? 
  • If the mobile network falls over or is part of the cuts how will the management team and you communicate with each other and do you have a printed list of phone numbers? 

Comms team operational issues

  • What happens if your passwords, lines to take, journalist contact details and internal phone numbers are on a hard drive that won’t work in a power cut? Can you print them off in advance? 
  • If WiFi goes down across the area can you make plans in advance to switch to the mooted national SMS messaging that’s more robust?
  • What if WiFi and 4G goes down so that you can’t access WhatsApp or social media? 
  • What community networks already exist that you can plug into in advance?  
  • Will the website go down in a power cut?
  • Will there be enough staff to monitor social media especially if the website goes down?
  • If the website goes down are you prepared for a huge flood of questions on Facebook or other channels? As well as abuse? 
  • What will residents be told? 
  • Will email providers like Govdelivery still work? 
  • Have you got power banks to help power the mobile phones of the team?
  • Will laptops be fully charged in advance?
  • Will the mobile phone network be taken down or be flooded in a power cut?
  • Has everyone got a grab bag with charged laptop, powerbank, torches, food and bottled water? 
  • Will the national SMS messaging service work?

Thanks to Sara and everyone who contributed.

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