Twitter shines bright during Toronto power outage – Week 9

Sandy hits Toronto. Thousand of Toronto Hydro customers left without power. Image courtesy of

In the wee morning hours of October 30, 2012, much of Toronto woke up to find themselves without power. The high winds and rain as a result of hurricane Sandy left nearly 150,000 Ontarians without power. Toronto was one of the cities hit hardest by the storm.

Like many Torontonians left without power, I immediately took to Twitter to keep updated on the status of power disruptions throughout the city and the progression of the storm. Not soon after the darkness hit the city, the hash tag #darkto began trending on Twitter.

Toronto Hydro wasted no time picking up the hash tag #darkto and #Sandy to increase awareness and drive traffic to their feed. Toronto Hydro did an exemplary job of utilizing this tool feed to keep customers updated on the restoration of power, an outlet for reporting incidents, as submitting inquiries of various degrees of urgency.

Tweets ranged from less serious inquiries like customers wanting to know when power would be restored or what to do with food warming in refrigerators to more serious reports, such as the one below:

Oct 30 – @TorontoHydro we currently have a tree balanced on our power lines but are still receiving power. Advice?

Tweet from Hydro One customer

Toronto Hydro’s Twitter feed during the power outage

My social media campaign for Toronto Hydro

Had I been in charge of the organization’s social web team during this crisis, I would have managed the crises using the following tools:


There was not much activity on Toronto Hydro’ Facebook page, other than a message directing customers to their Twitter feed for continuous updates. In addition to this message I would have created a tab on their Facebook page dedicated to the crisis. The purpose of the tab would be to provide customers with relevant information but not conflict with other communications activities. It would include FAQs on storm preparation and what to do in the event of a power outage. I would have also updated their Facebook status to advise that crews are on standby. There would be links to YouTube videos on storm preparation as well as a link to Toronto Hydro’s own YouTube video produced especially for this event. See below for details regarding the video.

Photo of facebook message

Toronto Hydro’s Facebook status update

You Tube video on storm preparation:

Toronto Hydro would have put out a video on storm emergency preparedness. The video would have featured their Emergency Preparedness Coordinator o Director, and would have acknowledged that a potential crisis is anticipated, offered tip and advice on what to do before and after an outage and advice customers on what Toronto Hydro is doing to prepare. It would conclude with a message stating that Toronto Hydro would be doing everything they can to restore power to customers in the event of a power outage. It would also highlight the different ways that customers can get in touch with Toronto Hydro in the event of an outage (social media efforts emphasized here).

Integrating social media efforts with phone lines:

I would have included messaging on Toronto Hydro’s dedicated phone line advising customers to use Twitter for regular updates. This could have been another resource customers could have used, had they not known Twitter would have been monitoring its Twitter feed 24/7. This may have significantly reduced call volumes for their customer service, especially those calls that were solely for updates.


Toronto Hydro did an excellent job at keeping customers updated on the power outage through Twitter. The only thing I would have done differently or added was to personally follow up with customers who reported serious issues on Twitter. The last tweet from Toronto Hydro was posted on November 1st.

Power restored to almost all customers; handful remaining. Thank you for your patience and understanding. #darkto #sandy

This is a great effort on their part, however I would have liked to see one last tweet, advising customers once all power has been restored and thanking everyone for their patience and those that took to twitter to report outages.


Toronto Hydro’s website was a great tool for customers looking to see whether their area was without power. It also provided a link to a form for those wishing to report an outage. I think an opportunity was missed to integrate a social media component into the website here. I would have incorporated their twitter feed and live streamed it directly on their website, so that customers could see the most recent tweets rolling in.

What are your thoughts on Toronto Hydro’s efforts, and what would you have done differently? I would love to hear your suggestions.


One thought on “Twitter shines bright during Toronto power outage – Week 9

  1. Richard Haskell

    A great post – very timely! I think Toronto Hydro did a good job of handling the situation, but your observations and additional suggestions are excellent. Nice work and great graphics!


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