News : Council’s Systems Fail Under Pressure
Papamoa, New Zealand, July 1, 2015 -- Conversations are going on in city hall after both Papamoa's water supply, and the city council 24/7 call centre failed.
The water shut off about 10.30pm and wasn't fully restored until 6am. When all of Papamoa tried to phone the council about it, the phone system failed its biggest test since going 24/7 in November 2014.
"There was some sort of overloading issue with the call centre from the number of people that were phoning in," says council communications advisor Marcel Currin.
"The call centre team are de-briefing to address that.
"Peter Bahrs, the water supply manager said that's the largest scale outage he's seen since he's been working here. Any call system may have struggled under that many people that late at night phoning in. It was certainly a very rigorous test."
When the council opened the call centre last November it stated there would be two night operators until about 8pm, with one operator on after that. There were processes in place to bring in back up staff if required, said council staff at the time.
The call centre successfully weathered Cyclone Pam and the tornado in May, says Marcel.
"This was all of Papamoa without water, that's many thousands of homes. We need to have some conversations about how you escalate, upscale if it's that big. So that's what they are talking about this morning."
Marcel had no answer to a resident's concerns about the lack of water for firefighting, and the fire service not having after hours numbers for the required council staff.
Francis Jackson found there was no water at 10.30pm, the neighbour was also waterless.
He checked for any Council Shutdowns on website, and none were listed. He tried to phone the council but after an hour the phone went dead. Tried to email the council and received a reply at 6.06am Wednesday.
He then phone the council's contractor City Care in Christchurch.
"City care said; ‘We have had a lot of calls from people in Tauranga about this situation. We are trying to contact somebody in council but we are having the same problem. We've already tried three times'."
Francis then called the fire service to let them know there was no water in Papamoa, and to bring a tanker if there were any fire calls.
"The chief at Tauranga last night said we have got nobody listed to contact for emergencies such as a hydrant," says Francis.
The Tauranga fire station also received a number of calls from people warning there was no water in Papamoa.
The Tauranga station officer was going to phone through to N.Z. Fire Service Communications in Auckland to see if they had been supplied with Tauranga City Council emergency water staff contact numbers, says Francis.
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"Due to what happened last night affecting thousands in Papamoa it appears that Council should urgently address this afterhours emergency contacts in case of another emergency and have another back up system in place."
Marcel says that under normal circumstances council water staff and the fire service talk ‘pretty closely'.
"There's definitely contact between Tauranga City Council and the fire service regarding water supply," says Marcel.
Council staff contacted SunLive to say they have since learned there was a technical fault with the council's phone system last night that was unrelated to the water issue phone calls and was not a case of the 24/7 call centre being over capacity.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, July 3, 2015
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