You've heard of the 3Rs – but what about the 3Cs?

Eddy Canfor-Dumas


January 2021

We had a power cut on Saturday morning. At just past 8 o’clock everything went off and we heard the tell-tale sound of a neighbour’s burglar alarm – tripped whenever there’s a glitch in the power supply and a sure sign that this cut wasn’t just in our house.

The neighbourhood WhatsApp group was quickly buzzing, several of us notified the power company, and very soon I saw what I think of as the 3Cs of disaster management swing into action. OK, our power cut wasn't exactly a disaster but the same principles apply.

The specific protocols vary from organisation to organisation but, for me, they all boil down to these 3Cs – competence, communication and compassion. And the power company displayed them all.

Competence – because they turned up a little over an hour after the fault was first reported and fixed it after only 35 minutes. They were obviously well prepared at all levels, they knew what to do and they did it very efficiently.

Communication – because they made it easy to report the fault via their website and followed up by sending us regular progress reports by SMS text. A nice man from the company even phoned to put me completely in the picture and find out if there was anyone vulnerable in the house.

Compassion front and centre

Which was also evidence of their compassion. It was clear from how they communicated – and behaved generally – that the welfare of those affected by the power cut was front and centre in their minds. Amazingly, they even offered to supply us with food, if necessary, in the unlikely event that they couldn’t fix the problem within a reasonable time.

As it was, they under-promised and over-delivered – they estimated they’d restore supply sometime between 1130 and 1230 and actually did it at 0950.

So, 10/10 for the power company, who were exemplary throughout this event.

Which prompted a couple of bigger thoughts about the 3Cs and their current and future application.

A real disaster

First, the power company's actions showed up for me how the UK government‘s handling of a real disaster – the covid pandemic – has so often fallen short of what is demanded by the 3Cs.

Of course, the scale and complexity of the pandemic is way beyond any of the challenges posed by a simple power cut and the picture is by no means all negative – the vaccination programme seems to be rolling out well.

But I’ve been pretty unimpressed by the mixed messages coming from the government (communication), their decisions to support some people but not others (compassion) and their basic lack of competence in several areas. All compounded by a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver – the exact opposite of what the power company did.

The 3Cs locally

Second, I think we’re all going to have to get more familiar with the 3Cs as the impacts of climate change are felt more often.

Again, my local incident is nothing compared to the severe problems faced by people in many parts of the world – or even other parts of the UK. But as extreme weather events multiply, I suspect we’ll need to apply the 3Cs increasingly at a local level.

For example, the WhatsApp group which our immediate neighbourhood has formed embodies two of the 3Cs – communication and compassion – which definitely helped in this incident. But I imagine we’ll have to add more local competence, too, right down to household level, as the challenges grow.

We'll also have a growing need for creative conversation to support all of the 3Cs – hence The Creative Conversation Company. There's method in our madness...

But for now, I’m just grateful to UK Power Networks and their brilliant display of the 3Cs. And grateful, indeed, that we have electricity at all to make our lives so much more comfortable.

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