The Editor’s Corner

Michael BournazianBy Michael Bournazian, Eng., Newsletter Editor, ASQ Senior Member, CSSGB

The February 2021 power crisis in the state of Texas, that continues to cause issues even after all the snow and ice has melted away, was something to see.

I have been to the state on several occasions in my professional life: Dallas twice, and Houston, Tyler, Abilene and Lufkin once each. These trips were never scheduled to take into account any specific season because, well, it’s Texas, and never did I assume at any time I may want to avoid, say, Dallas in January because it would snow a lot.

Politics aside, the causes as to why the grids failed will be interesting to find out, to say the least. On February 16, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott declared that there will be an investigation of the power outage to determine long-term solutions. Good idea: of course he then turned around a few days later and declared Texas 100% open for business with no mask mandate, so not so good. But I digress.

I have written in the past about catastrophic failures in industry (British Petroleum, Toyota, Boeing), all with a sense of  “look at what these buggers (clean language folks) did?! How dare they?! There better be some honest-to-goodness investigation, cause & corrective action/risk analysis/restructuring/rewriting of processes/hirings/firings/blah blah blah.” To be honest, this was going to be my “tone” for this article.

And then, not long after, I was reminded of something: the January 1998 Ice Storm.

Remember, that storm that came through and affected Eastern Ontario, Southern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, knocking out power to millions of people for days, weeks, and even months in some cases? At the time, the power grids and installations in this part of the world (aka Canada, the cold snowy country) did not fare much better. I personally remember my family taking in some relatives for one week when their power was out; and then when theirs came back, they immediately returned the favour when ours went out for a week!

Eventually, lives got back to normal, as they will in Texas. But can either of these situations be considered the better of the other?

* In this corner, we have Texas, an American state synonymous with sun, heat and desert. So power grids ill-equipped to handle snow and ice would not be too surprising. That said, the effects of global climate change have been evident for decades, and abnormal weather events have become unfortunately normal. And sometimes, it does take a disaster to make people realize that a risk is real.

* And in this corner, we have Canada, a country synonymous with snow at every given stereotype. You would have expected the power grids here to have been well-equipped to withstand snow, ice, wind, hail, freezing rain and the like. And yet . . . well, you know.

So how was my tone?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Neither the “C” word nor the “P” word were used during the writing of this article.

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Thank you, all the best and none of the worst.