01/06/2014 01:18 EST | Updated 03/08/2014 05:59 EST

Saskatoon councillor calls for improved communication during power outages

SASKATOON - A city councillor wants Saskatoon to improve how it communicates with people during a power outage.

Charlie Clark says there was little information available when the electricity went out for almost five hours Sunday night during frigid temperatures.

Clark says phone lines were busy and the city's website didn't give much detail.

He says he will bring the issue up with city council.

Trevor Bell with Saskatoon Light and Power says he's hearing people's concerns and will work to improve communication.

It's still not clear exactly what caused the power outage, but the bitterly cold weather is not believed to have been a factor.

Bell says there was an equipment problem at a substation, but it wasn't immediately evident because it was a technical error. That's why it took longer than normal to restore electricity.

"After every outage, it is standard protocol for us to get together and review what worked and what didn't work and try and figure out how to improve things," he said Monday.

Extra people were brought in to answer phones, he said, and the city does provide service alerts.

"A lot of people have smartphones these days," Bell said. "We do have a website with service alerts on there ... if you go to the city of Saskatoon website on the front page it talks about service alerts. From there, you can get some information about the duration that it may be going."

Clark said a power outage in Toronto due to an ice storm before Christmas was still fresh in people's minds. The storm knocked out electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers in southern Ontario.

"We didn't have the sort of emergency communication response to really push the word out to help reassure people," he said.

"I think a lot of people without access to phone ... were looking to the website and other information to find out what to expect with regards to the power outage. There was quite a long period of time where there were no real updates to provide people with good information so that they would be able to ... know whether this was a short-term or long-term situation they were facing.

"Something that I heard a lot of frustration from residents about is that time went on and the hours ticked by."