Note to all local and state government officials: Facebook and Twitter are not acceptable means of officially communicating with the public especially in an emergency.
One of the things sorely lacking during the extensive 17 hour power outage in Mesquite March 6 and 7 was communications with the public and between important public services and major businesses by the entity responsible for the outage, Overton Power District (OPD).
OPD officials made no attempt to contact Mesa View Regional Hospital at any time during the outage. Hospital officials got their information from the City of Mesquite Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
The first notification to the Mesquite Fire and Rescue Department came from the city’s 911 Dispatch Center. Fire Department personnel called OPD just after midnight trying to get current information when it became apparent the power was not going to be restored in accordance with original projections.
Smith’s grocery store never received any information directly from OPD instead relying on their own experiences from past power outages to make decisions and take preventive measures to ensure they didn’t lose all their cold foods like they did in September 2014.
Neither Mesquite Gaming nor Eureka Casino Hotel received any information from OPD officials at any time. In spite of the weekend being one of the busiest of the tourist season, both major businesses and biggest ratepayers had no official communications with OPD.
Hundreds of local residents jammed the 911 Dispatch center seeking information about the outage after trying to call OPD to no avail.
Only one emergency alert message was sent out by Clark County Emergency Services four hours after the outage began. Nothing was done – or said – after that.
So what were people, businesses, and services told to do? “Just follow us on Facebook and Twitter,” was the advice given by OPD officials.
OPD Board of Trustee Mesquite representative Mike Young said it was the best way to get information out to people and it worked great. OPD Board of Trustee at-large representative Judy Metz said people should have been more prepared.
Does it need explaining why all of those responses from OPD are just plain stupid?
The average age of Mesquite residents is 54 years. The vast majority of people don’t use Twitter at all. Many others don’t do Facebook either. Neither of those worked for anyone whose cell phone wasn’t fully charged. Doesn’t it go without saying that to use either of those on a computer you need, oh, power?
Besides, the hospital and Fire Department at least deserve the simple courtesy of frequent phone calls during major events like a 17 hour power outage from the entity that was in charge of fixing the problem. But it’s more than courtesy – it’s a necessity.
Businesses like Smith’s and Wal-Mart who stand to lose a great deal of fresh produce and cold foods deserve to know what’s going on and get frequent updates also.
To not give the two biggest ratepayers that send millions of dollars a year to OPD a heads-up that would have helped them plan what to do with hundreds of hotel guests is just ridiculous.
And really folks, someone at OPD didn’t think to update their telephone message with current information so people could call there instead of 911 to find out what was going on? Really?
No, Mr. Young, Facebook and Twitter did not work well and it’s pathetic to think it’s the best way to go. And Ms. Metz, may you be reminded that it is OPD’s primary responsibility to be better prepared not just the people that rely on uninterrupted power service.
As for the rest of the Board of Trustees and OPD General Manager Mendis Cooper, get your stuff together and develop a communications plan before the next outage occurs. Actually, how about getting that done in the next month.
And let the public know about it any other way than Facebook or Twitter.