UBC emphasizes personal emergency preparedness in response to winds, outages on campus last month

Last month, strong winds caused multiple power outages on the UBC Vancouver campus, resulting in many students taking to social media to share updates.

On November 11, BC’s south coast was hit by strong winds from a fall storm passing through the region, causing multiple power outages on the UBC Vancouver campus. The overnight storm caused over 200 power outages across the Lower Mainland, according to BC Hydro, who is the primary provider of electricity at UBC. Power is distributed across all academic and student residence facilities by the North Campus sub-station.

While UBC did not release any statement about the power outages, many students posted ongoing updates on Reddit about the impacts on student residence.

Hailey Maxwell, manager of emergency management & continuity planning at UBC, said the power outages did not constitute an emergency, as they were managed effectively at an operational level by UBC Facilities.

“We become aware of these things in case they do become an emergency … The power was restored [quickly,] so nothing really rose to the level of needing an institutional response,” she said.

Matthew Ramsay, director of media relations at UBC, wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey that the effects of the recent outages were managed by the front desk teams in student residences. He also wrote that there are systems in place in student residence in case of a sustained power outage.

“Housing-managed buildings with electronic locks have backup power for the lock systems which function for ~12 hours … and the [Overnight Mobile Unit] would assist [in case of a backup failure],” Ramsay wrote.

In light of the severe weather and unexpected outages, Maxwell emphasized the importance of being prepared for potential emergencies on both an institutional and a personal level.

“We have a publicly facing emergency response plan,” said Maxwell, noting that there are significant food, water and shelter supports in place to support the university community in the event of an emergency.

However, institutional level responses are also “generic,” Maxwell said, and take some time to activate. She stressed the importance of personal preparedness and planning ahead.

“T​​hat ownership that you take over having the bits and pieces that are important to your life pulled together is incredibly important … Glasses, prescription medication, contact information for your family. Those things I can’t prepare for our community,” she said.

Maxwell also highlighted a number of ways the Emergency Management and Continuity Planning team supports the community in being prepared, including one-on-one conversations, ongoing personal preparedness workshops, digital or hardcopy planning materials and the UBC Ready website, maintained by UBC, which has many emergency planning resources.

Maxwell added that all UBC students, staff and faculty are automatically enrolled in a campus-wide message alert system in case of an emergency, but noted that it is used sparingly and only for “life safety information.”

She recommended downloading the UBC Safe app, which is freely available, for an additional layer of notification, as well as easy access to resources.

“Personal preparedness is not just a philosophy that we tout. It's a really important service that you provide to yourself and to your community."