RESTORING POWER Q&A
The following information is provided to aid in the understanding of the steps necessary to fully restore power after a major outage event.
Q. What happens prior to a known power outage, such as one that may occur with a tropical event?
A. Many outages, such as those involving a major, known weather event, are planned in advance. Crews will perform system upgrades and routine repairs so that the duration of these planned outages is the shortest possible and impacts the fewest people. Crews also ensure that our warehouse is fully stocked with the supplies that may be needed to bring restoration to our community and equipment is serviced, fueled and ready. Crews are also put on standby and outside, mutual aid agreements are made to help bring in additional help should they be needed. Attention then turns to staffing all areas, meal planning for those working and even housing for staff members and mutual aid crews who will need to respond during and after a major weather event. A great deal of advance planning happens when storms are still days away from our area.
Q. Who is responsible for restoring my power?
A. The answer will depend on where the damage occurred on the electric grid. The City of Thomasville is responsible for the distribution system, or the part of the power supply that comes from our substation to the main lines and the service lines that bring power to your home or business. However, the transmission lines are the responsibility of other agencies. When there is a problem with a transmission line, City of Thomasville staff may not be able to complete restoration to our customers until the transmission line is repaired. Unfortunately, outages involving transmission lines can be quite lengthy.
Q. Why do my neighbors sometimes have power during an outage when I don’t?
A. Many factors can cause this situation. Your neighbors may be on a different supply line, or there may be trouble just on the section supplying your immediate area. The cause of the outage may be isolated to one circuit or multiple circuits, or the problem may affect only the power lines connecting to your residence. Each situation may vary. It helps when you report your outage to let us know if your immediate, next door neighbors are also without power or if they have service and you do not. Keep in mind that should the service line from your home to the pole be down, you must have this addressed by a licensed electrician before we can restore the power to your home. It is often a good idea to be sure your service line is not the issue before you report the outage.
Q. What are the priorities for service restoration?
A. Please understand that our staff will work around the clock until all services are restored. However, safety of the public and our staff is our highest priority. The sequence for service restoration includes the following:
- Utility crews complete an assessment of the overall system and focus on repairing major lines and substations. Crews must also clear hazards such as snapped or leaning utility poles or uprooted trees that may be on the electric lines or fallen wires.
- We then focus on restoring power to key services essential to our community’s safety, health and welfare—such as hospitals, police stations, fire, communications, water, transportation and other vital public services.
- Repair priorities are based on the electrical facilities that will return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest period of time. Once crews restore major circuits, they then turn their attention to system repairs that affect fewer customers.
- Before the service to your street can be restored, crews must repair main electric lines and wires that feed power to streets such as yours. Next, downed or damaged wires between utility poles and individual homes are repaired.
Q. Why at times does it seem to take so long to restore my power?
A. When damage is widespread—such as after a severe storm—it may be impossible to restore electric service to everyone at the same time. In such cases, our utility crews must give priority to hospitals, police and fire departments, water systems, communication facilities, and other such essential services. After that, repairs are made based on restoring power to the greatest number of customers in the shortest amount of time. Sometimes your circuit may be among the first repaired and other times it may take longer. When there is a delay in restoring your power, your patience is very much appreciated.
Q. Why can’t I get an estimate of how long it will be before my power is restored?
A. With a widespread outage event, crews move quickly from call to call. They assess damage at the scene and make repairs or call for additional materials, equipment or manpower, depending on the problem. A distribution fuse can take a few minutes to repair; a distribution transformer can take a couple of hours to replace; but widespread damage to the transmission system can take days, weeks, or even months to repair.
Widespread damage from a severe storm may make it impossible to accurately predict when a particular customer’s power will be restored—especially in the early phases of an outage when the extent of the damage is unknown.
Once the extent of damage is understood, restoration times are affected by the degree of damage to the electric transmission and distribution facilities. High-voltage transmission lines are given first priority because they supply electricity to the entire distribution system. Substations are repaired next to energize local distribution lines. A distribution line serving a local area may have multiple damage locations, all of which must be found and repaired. All these factors affect the ability to predict when a specific customer’s power will be restored.
Q. Why did a service truck go through my neighborhood without stopping to restore my power?
A. Service crews must first address public safety hazards and make repairs that restore power to essential service loads. A truck may have passed your home as part of conducting early system assessments or on the way to one of these high-priority assignments. This also helps the responding crew be prepared to restore the outage as quickly as possible, as they can plan what equipment or materials may be needed for that particular location.
Q. Should I report a downed wire or loss of power?
A. If your power goes out, please report the service outage. It will help our utility crews to have as much information as possible when you make the report, such as if you see broken poles or lines that have fallen. Please also include your complete address.
Q. What should I do if I see a wire down?
A. Never assume that a damaged wire or other item from the distribution system is de-energized. Always treat any downed line you see as though it is energized. Wires that are low hanging or even on the ground can still be energized or can suddenly become energized during system recovery and could cause serious injury or death. Stay clear of any conductors, electric lines and other infrastructure until they are safely cleared by proper utility personnel.
Q. Why did my power come back on and then go off again a few minutes later?
A. Restoring power to your home is a complex and dangerous job. Sometimes, after a line is repaired in one location, other damage causes the line to go out again. At other times, it may be necessary to turn off your power once more to safely repair other problems. In any case, crews will work to restore your power again as soon as safely possible.
Q. What is my best source of information about restoration efforts?
A. During a widespread, lengthy outage event, communication to our customers is a priority. Unfortunately, in many cases, we are unable to provide specific information about restoration to individual customer locations. We will update our Facebook page and website with as much information as we can regarding the areas with the largest reported outages.
Q. Can I use a portable generator to produce electricity for my home during an outage?
A. Yes, but please follow the manufacturer’s directions and make sure your home is properly safeguarded so as not to interfere with the flow of electricity once the power is restored. Improper connection of an emergency generator cannot only damage the generator or your own equipment, but such a generator may also back feed the normal electric feed to your home and place the lives of crews at risk as they restore the system. Make sure your generator is in a well-ventilated area and is not connected to the main breaker of your home. The American Red Cross offers generator safety information, available here.
Q. Why does my power sometimes blink in a momentary outage so that my digital clocks need to be reset?
A. Most distribution lines are protected by special devices called breakers and reclosers. These devices not only cut off power when a fault occurs, but they can also automatically close to re-energize the circuit. If a momentary fault occurs, as sometimes happens, the short-circuit condition quickly clears, and the line is automatically re-energized. When this occurs, there is a momentary loss of power (typically less than a few seconds) to the customers on that circuit.
Q. Do you reimburse for food loss or damaged equipment during an outage?
A. Outages due to weather are beyond our control, and although we will work together to attempt to restore power as quickly and safely as possible, extensive system damage can take several days to repair. Unfortunately, reimbursement is not made to customers for equipment damaged or food lost during events outside our control. Customers should contact their renter’s or homeowner’s insurance carrier to determine if their policies cover such losses. For customers on assistance programs, the Department of Family and Children’s Services may have information on the SNAP Replacement Benefit Program that may apply.
Q. Do I receive a credit on my electric bill for the time I was without power?
A. You are only charged for the amount of electricity you use. During the time your service was interrupted, your meter did not register electric usage, and you will not be charged for any consumption.
Q. How is electricity provided for people with special medical problems, such as those on life-sustaining medical equipment, during an outage?
A. Those who have medical conditions that require an uninterrupted power supply should take the steps necessary during a widespread outage to move to an area that will provide the power supply necessary for their condition. Unfortunately, we cannot assure restoration of services based on medical conditions or issues.
The City of Thomasville has a medical alert program that will notify our customers with medical conditions prior to disconnection for nonpayment. It does not provide priority for restoration of services.
Q. What is the best way to report my outage?
A. You can report an outage through the outage hotline, 227-5499, or by utilizing the Tville TextAlert system. To subscribe to Tville TextAlert, you will first need to be sure your mobile number is added to your utilities account by calling 227-7001 during regular business hours. Once your number is active on your account, you will text tville to 85700 to confirm your service location. You are then ready to begin using TextAlert to manage your outage information.
Q. Why is the automated attendant answering the telephone? I want to speak to a staff member to report my outage.
A. Unfortunately, we may not be able to personally answer each call during a widespread outage event. Please leave a message as indicated by the automated attendant. Rest assured that each and every message is reviewed and your outage information will be received.
Q. It has been several days. Should I report my outage again?
A. In most cases, one outage report is sufficient. However, if you are notified by our outage management system or by Tville TextAlert that your power is restored when it is not, please report your outage again. An incorrect message that indicates your power is restored when it is not means that our system is sensing you have service, so we need to know when that is not correct.
Q. How can I prepare for long term outages?
A. When a weather event is expected to bring widespread, extended outages to our area, we attempt to notify our customers to prepare for this type of event. You should then take the steps necessary to protect yourself, your family and your property. You can find information for how to prepare here.