Powering Up After a Storm
Your electric cooperative starts big when tracing outages during electricity restoration

When a major storm causes widespread damage, long outages may result. Co-op line crews work long, hard hours to restore service to the greatest number of consumers in the shortest period of time.
IMAGE: First Electric Cooperative, Arkansas

Lights out? Thirty-one percent of power outages are triggered by the weather. Lineworkers must battle the elements to find problem areas and restore service as quickly and safely as possible.

Your co-op staff knows you want to know why the lights are out and when they are coming back on. First, workers must find the problem, and then they follow a series of steps to bring the lights back on.

Efforts are made to restore power to the largest number of members as quickly as possible. Then crews fix problems affecting smaller groups of members.

Restoring Power

When an outage occurs, line crews work to pinpoint problems. They start with high-voltage transmission lines. Transmission towers and cables that supply power to thousands of consumers rarely fail. But when damage occurs, these facilities must be repaired before other parts of the system can operate.

Next, crews check distribution substations. Each substation serves hundreds or thousands of members. When a major outage occurs, line crews inspect substations to discover if problems stem from transmission lines feeding into the substation, the substation itself, or if problems exist down the line.

If the problem cannot be isolated at a distribution substation, distribution lines are checked. These lines carry power to large groups of members in communities or housing developments.

If local outages persist, supply lines (also called tap lines) are inspected. These lines deliver power to transformers, either mounted on poles or placed on pads for underground service, outside businesses, schools and homes.

If your home remains without power, the service line between a transformer and your home may need to be repaired.

Always call your co-op to report an outage. This helps crews isolate local issues.

B. Denise Hawkins writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Outage Safety Tips

Follow these safety steps at home during a power outage:

• Before calling your cooperative to report an outage, first check to see whether your home’s circuit panel or fuse box has tripped or blown a fuse. This can also cause a power failure. If tripped, reset the breaker or replace the blown fuse.

• If the power is out in your entire neighborhood, call your co-op to report the outage.

• Turn off and unplug all unnecessary appliances and electrical equipment. When power is restored, turn on items one at a time.

• Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. An unopened refrigerator keeps food cold for about four hours. A full freezer keeps food cold for about 48 hours.

• Individual households may receive special attention if loss of electricity affects life-support systems or poses immediate danger. If you or a family member depends on life support, inform your co-op before a power outage happens.

TAGS: Linemen, Natural Disasters

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