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Emergencies Covered at New Bell Block Disaster Centre

Friday, February 7, 2014

Keeping the electricity flowing when disaster strikes has prompted Powerco to set up an emergency recovery centre in North Taranaki.

Powerco has invested about $500,000 in the new Bell Block facility, which will act as a backup to the company’s Network Operations Centre (NOC) in New Plymouth’s Junction Street.

The aim of the new facility is to ensure Powerco can continue to operate its electrical networks safely and effectively if, in the event of an emergency, the NOC building is unable to be used.

Powerco Acting Electricity Operations Manager Phil Marsh said the new centre was a replica of the company’s dispatch and control rooms.

“Should the unforeseen occur and Junction Street needs to be evacuated, we can power up the Bell Block site and carry on business as usual.

“The centre can cater for up to 16 staff members who, if required, will be able to man the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to manage the electricity network,” he said.

Not limited to Taranaki, the centre will serve as a site to co-ordinate the response to major events across the entire Powerco network.

Along with others in the electricity industry, Powerco learned valuable lessons from the Christchurch earthquakes – in particular the importance of a backup facility, Mr Marsh said.

“The events of Christchurch were a reminder that disaster and contingency planning must be taken seriously.”

The new facility includes a Civil Defence strategies room. A recent exercise, simulating electricity infrastructure damage by ash fall across Taranaki and adjacent regions, proved invaluable training, he said. As part of the exercise, Powerco staff abandoned the main NOC site to power up from the Bell Block facility.

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