Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Restoring service after your power goes out

Nobody wants to be without electric power, but power can go out at any time for a number of reasons.

If your power goes out, call 800-662-4797 to report it. Calls help pinpoint outages. Also, if you see a wire down or something unusual such as a flash, report that, too.

Outage causes
Sometimes, we interrupt service for maintenance or upgrades. In such instances, we notify you in advance of a planned outage, using a letter, phone call, knock on the door or door hanger if no one answers our knock.

Most often, though, outages are caused by severe weather, faulty equipment, fallen trees and branches, animal contact, accidents and other incidents.

Storm preparation and response
If we know storms are coming, we try to anticipate where they may strike and mobilize our repair crews to respond quickly. When damage is widespread, we bring in additional crews from our other areas that may not be affected by the storms. Sometimes, storms may affect our entire service area. In such situations, we have contractors to assist. They supplement our workforce day to day as well as during storms. We also have mutual assistance agreements with neighboring utilities.

Crews work around the clock until service is restored to all customers; however, for safety reasons, crews only work as many as 16 hours in a 24-hour period. After a required 8-hour break for sleep, crews continue their work, if needed. Typically, we use rotations so some crews always are working while others are resting.

Crews often are hampered by difficult conditions. Roadways may be compromised by flooding, ice, snow or fallen trees and other debris, making it difficult or impossible to get to certain sites where repair work is needed. Working in severe cold, wind as well as snow and rain also can slow things down.

Restoration times
Damaged service mast.
Power outages may be just an instant. Sometimes they last seconds, minutes, hours or even days, depending on the severity of damage and how widespread the damage may be. Outages that last just seconds or minutes often are caused by wildlife, weather or vegetation contacting our electric lines and sometimes by contractors digging into our underground wires. Many times, our system can quickly reset itself. You may experience some blinking clocks, but your power returns with little delay. At other times, damage requires a crew to find and fix the cause of the outage.

If the problem is a pole that is knocked down or broken, a new pole can be set in an hour or two and the wires restrung in two or three hours – if the location is easily accessible. In places with more difficult access, the process can take twice as long. Another factor is how many wires are on a pole. More wires mean more work and more time. Underground wires have problems less frequently, but when problems occur, they are more difficult to locate and take longer to repair.

Sometimes, we cannot restore service because of damage to the service mast at your home or business. An electrician would need to replace or repair that equipment before we can reconnect. If you see a situation similar to the adjacent picture, you should contact an electrician as soon as possible.

Prioritizing response to widespread outages
When we get numerous outages at the same time, we prioritize our response.

First, we address situations that are life-threatening or hazardous, such as a power line on a street. After such situations are addressed, we begin the restoration process by making equipment repairs that are causing outages to the greatest number of customers. First come transmission lines, then substations, then main distribution lines, then secondary lines to neighborhoods and finally service lines to individual homes and businesses.

To minimize outages, we evaluate our system annually, identifying areas that experience the most problems and taking steps to improve service. The solutions may be equipment upgrades, additional tree trimming or other protective measures.

Be prepared
Because an outage can occur at any time, we are always ready to respond. We don’t want you to be without power any more than you do. But outages do occur, and we recommend that you be prepared:

Steps to take before a power outage

When you have an outage, use these tips:

Steps to take during a power outage

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