Power outage fails to stop Cambridge communications firm

Marie-Lauren Gregoire

One business extended itself through the dark hours of the night as Cambridge, Ontario and most of the eastern United States were plunged into darkness during the massive power outage Thursday.

Extend Communications on Water Street operates 24 hours a day and they did not stop during the blackout. The communications company which provides essential services to many companies throughout the area was prepared for the power loss.

Extend answered calls for medical and oxygen supply, propane and ice supply companies and electrical and mechanical companies for repair and service for generators during the emergency. It also answered calls for obstetricians, midwives and veterinarians whose work goes on despite a blackout. The company also received a lot of calls for elevator companies as people found themselves stuck in one.

“A lot of companies rely on us to take their calls. A lot of companies, as soon as it happened, were calling us to say ‘are my calls coming through, will they be answered?” said Todd Lyons, vice-president of Extend.

“We’re always going to do our best to make sure we’re here and open.”

The call volume was very high during the hours of the blackout. Calls increased more than 50 per cent from 4 p.m. Thursday to midnight Friday. Lyons brought in more staff to deal with the barrage.

Call centre staff had to deal with a wide range of emergency calls. There were calls from nursing homes wanting propane delivery from their fuel companies and a Toronto communications company needing a generator.

He complimented his entire staff for the long hours they put in and their calm in dealing with hundreds of stressed customers.

“We’re used to some fairly urgent calls so for our business it was more than usual but not mind-boggling to us because we’ve always been a part of dispatching emergency calls,” said Lyons.

The generator powers some lighting in the building and the computers run on battery backup power. Extend ran for 23 hours on emergency backup power.

“Anyone who provides a service like that should be ready for eventualities like that,” said Lyons. “We helped out companies in other cities where their services weren’t as prepared as we were.”

Emergency situations like this one can test a company’s employees.

“It’s the staff,” said Lyons. “I can buy a generator but it’s having a dedicated team to work the equipment.”