Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Scam reports pick up

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen more customers calling to report scam attempts.

They’re describing the same scheme that we’ve previously issued warnings about: Scammers call and impersonate our employees and threaten disconnection unless the customer makes an immediate payment with a prepaid Green Dot stored value card. We do not solicit payments in this manner. Customers who receive suspicious calls should hang up and call us at 800-242-9137 to check the status of their account.

Fortunately, few customers have fallen victim to the prepaid card scam that has been around for a couple of years. Reports of the scam died down for several months, but lately they’ve picked up. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) regularly receives complaints nationwide about the scam. Aside from utility customers, scammers also target satellite and cable TV customers and other pre-pay products and services.

We continue to work with the BBB and Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to continue raising awareness.

Fox6 news story

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

We Energies employees, mobile substation rescue Escanaba

Thanks to the concern and quick action of our employees at the Wolverine Service Center in Iron Mountain, Michigan, the power is back on in Escanaba, following a significant fault on a city-owned distribution substation that occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 2, taking nearly one-third of the city’s customers out of power.

Our employees, concerned about the customers of the neighboring utility, responded by coordinating the loan of a portable substation to the City of Escanaba Electric Department until permanent repairs can be made to its facilities.

“Even though we don’t serve them, we placed ourselves in those customers’ shoes,” said John Estes, senior service manager at Wolverine, who coordinated much of the activity between the city, American Transmission Company and the engineering contractors. “There was extensive damage to the substation, and the city had instituted rolling blackouts to serve customers – many of whom rely on electric service for their heat. So, we reached out to the city utility.”

We contacted the City of Escanaba Electric Department later in the morning with the offer of the mobile substation, which includes the transformer, circuit breaker and control equipment. Led by Electric Operations’ Richard Larson, senior engineer; Jeff Michaud, operations manager; Jim Tefft, operations supervisors, and Power Generations’ Dan Wrock, supervisor, about a dozen of our employees worked 16 hours to connect, test and put the substation into service. Thanks to their concern and quick action, customers were out of power for just more than 24 hours.


The mobile substation on the trailer (to the left of the poles) helped avoid a much longer power outage for many of the municipal utility customers in Escanaba, Michigan.



Monday, February 2, 2015

Keep natural gas meters, vents clear of snow, ice

When snowfall is heavy, remember to keep your furnace vents and natural gas meters clear of snow and ice.

Keeping furnace intake and exhaust vents clear of snow and ice is an important safety precaution to prevent build up of carbon monoxide inside homes and buildings. A blocked vent also can affect the performance of the furnace, which may not run properly or at all when the intake or exhaust vent is blocked.

As for natural gas meters, you may not think about that often, but we ask that you keep your meter clear of snow and ice for safety. Accumulated snow and ice place stress on meter piping, which can damage equipment and cause a gas leak. Keeping the meter clear also allows our employees to properly service the meter in case of emergency and keeps it visible to snowplows when those meters are in close proximity to alleys or other areas subject to plowing.

To avoid meter problems:
  • Keep meters clear of snow and ice; make sure snow isn't covering meter. 
  • Always shovel away from meter. 
  • Take care when using snow thrower or plow near meter. 
  • Use a broom to clear snow and ice from equipment. 
  • Avoid kicking or hitting meter to break away built-up snow or ice. 
  • Remove icicles that may drip water onto meter.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fleet adds hybrid bucket trucks

We recently added two hybrid bucket trucks to our fleet. The new trucks were purchased from Waukesha, Wisconsin-based Dueco Inc. and are equipped with Odyne plug-in hybrid systems that feature lithium-ion battery packs, manufactured by Glendale, Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls Inc.

The hybrid systems are operating on a Terex TC55 line construction truck mounted on a Lakeside International Trucks chassis that will be used in everyday line work and on a Terex SC45 trouble truck that will perform driving and service work. The hybrid systems offer several advantages over traditional diesel or gasoline engines, including:
  • Up to 50 percent lower fuel consumption
  • Reduced emissions
  • Quieter operation at work sites
Both trucks are equipped with diagnostics to measure the performance of the hybrid trucks relative to others in our fleet.

Related coverage:
WDJT 58

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration includes winners of our annual speech contest

Finalists presented speeches Dec. 6 at our Public Service Building.
Milwaukee hosts its 31st Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Jan. 18 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. We’re been part of the event since its inception.

Part of the celebration features winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest that we sponsor in December each year. Through this program, we strive to help strengthen the reading, writing and public speaking skills of Milwaukee students while encouraging them to learn about and support the hopes and dreams of Dr. King.

In the contest, Milwaukee schools first host competitions within their own schools, choosing the best to participate in a preliminary competition to determine five finalists in each of six grade categories – K-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12. Those finalists are part of the event we sponsor at our headquarters to select first-, second- and third-place winners in each grade category.

Marissa Robertson, first-place winner
in grade 11-12 competition.
Winners receive a medallion, plaque, gift cards and an appearance at this weekend’s celebration. As an added bonus, the Milwaukee Bucks are honoring the three winners in each division with a center-court appearance at the Jan. 19 game. Media opportunities also are extended to winners. Marissa Robertson, first-place winner in the grade 11-12 category recently was featured on Milwaukee Public Television’s Black Nouveau program: MPTV Black Nouveau (Robertson segments begins at 13:02)

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. contest is open to all students who live in Milwaukee as well as any students who attend Milwaukee public, private, charter or home schools. Visit our website for details: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest

AGA produces video to help consumers understand natural gas bills

The American Gas Association recently released a short video that explains the main components of natural gas bills.



Learn more about AGA

Friday, January 2, 2015

Be ready for severe cold weather

Our energy distribution systems are built to withstand severe cold, but equipment problems, wildlife damage, high winds, accidents and other causes can knock out power at any time of the year. As always, be prepared to stay safe -- especially during severe cold.

Preparing for power outages
Add our numbers to your cell phone:
  • Power outage or electrical emergency: 800-662-4797
  • Natural gas leak, odor or emergency: 800-261-5325
Assemble an emergency kit and put it where it’s easy to find in the dark. Suggested items:
  • Flashlights, extra batteries
  • Blankets
  • Bottled water — half gallon a day per person
  • Battery-operated radio, extra batteries
  • Canned/dried food, hand-operated can opener
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Special items for infants, seniors or disabled family members
Other considerations:
  • Check on others, especially seniors or anyone with medical conditions
  • Keep pets safe
  • Keep electronic devices, especially cell phones, charged
  • Find out where area emergency shelters are located if you need to leave your home

Coping with power outages
  • Report and get updates on your outage by calling 800-662-4797
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible
  • Use manual operation of garage door
  • Dress in layers to stay warm.
  • Use battery-operated lights rather than candles
  • Unplug or turn off appliances to avoid overloading when power is restored
  • Leave a single light on to alert you when power is restored
  • If you are the only home without power, check your breakers or fuses
  • Close blinds or drapes and avoid opening doors to retain heat
  • Use a generator safely to power your furnace
  • Use a properly vented fireplace or wood-burning stove, if you have one
  • Do not use outdoor grills, kerosene heaters or camping heaters
  • Go to safe shelter if your home becomes extremely cold

Ensuring meter safety
Keeping meters clear of snow and ice allows for safer operation for you and access for us to service meters in case of emergency. If snow piles up, remember these tips:
  • Keep meters clear of snow and ice 
  • Use a brush to gently remove snow from meters
  • Be careful not to bury a meter when using a snow thrower or shovel
  • Remove icicles that may drip water on a natural gas meter and interfere with flow 

Avoiding downed power lines
Winter storms, extremely cold temperatures and snow can damage power lines. Downed power lines may still have electricity running through them. There’s no way to tell if they don’t. Many people think a power line will jump, spark or hum on the ground if it is energized. Downed power lines may appear motionless and harmless, but often are silent and deadly.

Responding to natural gas leaks and outages
Natural gas outages are rare; however, equipment failures, digging damage, natural disasters and other causes can disrupt service at any time. Damaged meters and corroded appliance connectors can cause leaks, so we add a foul odor to help detection. If you smell the odor:
  • Leave immediately – do not turn on light switches or use phone
  • Call us at 800-261-5325 from another location

Additional winter weather safety resources
American Red Cross
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention