Call to plan ahead for extreme weather

Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant is urging north communities to develop local resilience plans to respond to extreme weather and other emergencies.

The call came after the MSP visited Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution’s (SHEPD) regional base in Inverness to meet staff who battled hurricane force winds, snow and lightning to restore power supplies during seven consecutive days of extreme weather which affected the region in early January.

Around 160,000 customers across the north of Scotland lost power during the period - with Caithness, Sutherland, Ross-shire, Inverness-shire, the Western Isles and Shetland among the worst affected areas.

At the time of the incident, Rhoda Grant tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament recognising the efforts of the 1400 staff from SHEPD, its sister business in southern England, other network operators and contractors to restore supplies and support customers while attrocious weather conditions continued.

The visit to the depot allowed her to hear more about the challenges involved and to thank some of the staff in person.

Rhoda Grant MSP said: “I was really pleased to meet with SHEPD frontline workers who braved truly atrocious weather to reconnect communities a few weeks ago. Constituents tell me how much they appreciate their hard work and dedication and I was pleased to say thank you on their behalf.

“Many of my constituents in remote areas are prepared for bad weather and power cuts, but as communities, we need to look out for the most vulnerable in these situations.

“SHEPD do assist vulnerable groups by checking up on them and trying to ensure they receive hot meals etc. but we can all do a little to help ourselves by having alternative sources of light – candles, battery or rechargeable lights, a good old fashioned plug in phone and a transistor radio that doesn’t need electricity to work. If you want to be really prepared have an alternative source of heat and cooking available too.”

SHEPD’s Highlands & Islands Customer Operations Manager Colin Pirie added: “We are very grateful for the support shown to our frontline teams working in what were very challenging conditions - from local people all the way to Parliament.

“Our staff are proud to be part of the communities they serve - and the strength of their commitment to our customers reflects that.

“No two episodes of extreme weather are the same, but we know we are seeing powerful storms more regularly now than in the past. We are determined to learn from every one of these events, make our network as resilient as possible and prepare to respond quickly when customers are affected.

“Our ability to look after our customers in these circumstances is hugely enhanced by support from communities, partner organisations and local businesses.

We are keen to help local people agree the right plans for their own area before the weather hits - because experience has shown that is what works best for everyone.

“We also want to make sure customers who may be vulnerable without electricity, for example due to medical conditions, are aware of our Priority Service Register which we use to provide additional help. You can find out more by contacting us on 0800 294 3259.”