Hamilton plans to text residents about power outages

Residents will be able to message the city that the power’s out.

The city of Hamilton wants to get your mobile phone number.

The Department of Infrastructure will ask residents ― formally starting on Valentine’s Day, but they can provide it now ― for their cell numbers so the city may send text messages for various alerts, including power outages in neighborhood. The service will also be able to notify residents of other time-sensitive information on services, like leaf collection and street sweeping.

This text message program is part of a major enhancement to the city’s notification system and eventually, residents will be able to notify the city via text when their power is out. This added functionality will be in addition to the city’s current notification efforts, said Edwin Porter, Hamilton’s director of infrastructure.

“Text message notifications provide an option to help us communicate timely information accurately to our customers that are affected,” he said, adding communication via text is a common practice in the electric utility industry.

With texting community members about power outages, Porter said it tells residents the city is aware of an outage in their area, and “it will help us proactively communicate the issue we are experiencing, let customers know we are working on a solution, will provide relevant updates, and will help keep outage reporting lines open for other reports of issues that we may not yet be aware of.”

The city has its MyHamilton 311 system, but that platform, while recommended for non-utility outage issues, was not designed to work with the Department of Infrastructure’s Outage Management System, he said.

Automatic notifications of power outages will be added to the system later this spring, and later in the year, Porter said two-way reporting should be launched. This is when customers can text the city’s utilities department.

“We hope to build even more functionality to this tool as time goes on,” he said.

Customer service has been a big push for Hamilton in recent years, which is why city leaders added a customer service desk that’s designed to swiftly address most residential and non-residential issues. Porter said over the next year, “there will be ongoing efforts to implement additional tools to better inform and engage our community about power outages..”

To be able to receive these text message updates, residents’ phone numbers must be up to date in the city’s system. This can be done online at tinyurl.com/TextNotificationUpdate or through the city’s automated system by calling 513-785-7550 (customers should have their utility account number ready, then select option 1, and then press 2).

They can also update their cellphone information with a customer service representative by calling 513-785-7100.

Each account can have up to two phone numbers for notifications, and it could take up to 72 hours for the system to be updated.

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