What to Do During an Outage

What are some factors that cause power outages?

  • High winds blowing trees and branches onto power lines
  • Vehicles striking and breaking utility poles
  • High winds breaking utility poles
  • High winds blowing lines into trees
  • Cold-load pick-up problems
  • Animals such as birds, snakes and squirrels climbing poles and contacting both pole and the power line
  • Snow and ice build-up that causes power lines to break or touch tree branches
  • Problems at substations

How does SWAECC restore power?

SWAECC’s power restoration procedures are very simple. We try to restore power to as many families as possible as quickly as possible. Below are the steps SWAECC takes to restore power.

  1. Restore power to substations
  2. Repair main feeder lines in populated residential areas
  3. Repair three-phase lines in built-up rural areas
  4. Repair rural three-phase lines
  5. After three-phase lines have been repaired, repair single-phase lines
  6. Individual services and transformers are the last to be repaired
  7. Weatherheads and meterbases torn from the dwelling by falling trees or ice are the responsibility of the homeowner

What other steps does the cooperative take to be prepared for and respond to severe or prolonged outages?

SWAECC is committed to doing everything within its power to restore power as quickly as possible. During a severe outage lasting several days the cooperative will:

  • Pre-position employees and materials in any area expected to be hit hard by severe weather
  • Call in employees from other, unaffected, SWAECC offices
  • Call in outside help from other rural electric cooperatives
  • Hire additional contract line and tree-trimming crews
  • Work long hours every day and night until power is restored
  • Use local media to update customers as to our progress

What should my family do when the power goes out?

First make sure the problem is not within your home. Check your fuse box or circuit breaker to see if a fuse has blown or a breaker has tripped. If your fuses and breakers are okay, check your neighbors’ houses for lights. If your neighbors have power, the problem may just be at your home. If your neighbors do not have lights, then you should call SWAECC and report the outage.

How do I report a power outage?

The SWAECC phone number can be found in your telephone book, on this web site, and on your monthly billing statement.

SWAECC uses the Outage Management System, a system that allows your outage to be automatically recorded so that crews can be dispatched more efficiently.

When you call your SWAECC office, the Outage Management System attempts to look up your account matching the phone number you are calling from and the number that is listed in our records. If a match cannot be found, you will be prompted to enter additional information such as a phone number or account number. The system will make every attempt to record your outage automatically before it sends your call to be personally answered. Please be assured that the most efficient method of reporting an outage is being used.

During times of widespread outages, please keep in mind that phone lines may be busy. We ask your patience; we are doing everything possible to ensure that outage information is being dispatched to crews.

How often should I report the outage?

Once you report an outage, please give SWAECC time to respond and repair the damage. The cause of the outage may be miles from your home, and thus you may not see SWAECC vehicles in your area. If your power has not been restored within a few hours of your first call, please call again and report your outage. You should also call again if power is restored to your neighbors, but not to your home. If severe weather strikes, such as a tornado, ice storm or blizzard, it may be several days before power is restored to all SWAECC customers. During such an extended outage it is helpful if customers call and report their outage each morning.

What should my family do during an extended outage?

  • If power goes out, turn off electric heating /cooling system depending on season
  • Turn off appliances and lights leaving one light on to signal the restoration of power
  • Open refrigerators and freezers only as needed
  • After power has been restored, turn on heating/cooling system and appliances one by one over a period of time to minimize strain on system and prevent cold-load pick-up problems
  • Report all damage in your community. If you cannot get through to SWAECC, it may be because others in your area are calling to report damage.
  • Listen to local radio stations for updates
  • If the weather is extremely cold, seek shelter if possible

What is cold-load pick-up and why does it cause problems for SWAECC?

Cold-load pick-up problems occur during severe cold or hot weather when SWAECC tries to restore power. When power is disrupted in the winter, many families leave their heating systems and appliances on. When power is restored, those heating systems cause a huge drain on the power lines and can cause line protection equipment to take the overloaded lines off line because the heavy load acts the same as a fault on the line. Cold-load pick-up problems also occur in the summer when families and businesses are running air-conditioning units and heat pumps. Cold-load pick-up problems are prevented when customers turn off their electric heating or air-conditioning systems, lights and appliances and then, after power has been restored, turn them back on over a period of time.

How should I use a portable generator?

Portable generators, especially generators designed for home use, are not powerful enough to run your whole home. Necessary appliances such as the refrigerator, freezer or a space heater should be plugged into the generator. You should never plug your generator in your home’s outlets.

A generator connected to your home’s wiring systems must have a double throw switch that disconnects the generator and your home from SWAECC’s power system. This switch must be installed by a licensed electrician and must be inspected by the state or county electrical inspector.

Farm and commercial generators must be installed with a switch that disconnects the home or building from SWAECC’s power system while the generator is being used.

Should I help SWAECC by removing trees from power lines?

No, not unless you first call SWAECC. It is impossible to tell just by looking at them if power lines are energized. Live trees are excellent conductors of electricity, as are metal chain saw blades and bars. If SWAECC reports that power is out in your area, be aware that neighbors incorrectly using electric generators could be sending electricity into the lines.

Why does my neighbor have lights while my home is without power?

Your neighbor’s home may be on a different line. For example, a three-phase line may run right in front of your home, but you may receive power through a single-phase line running through your backyard. Also, the problem may be on the wire between the pole and your home or, your phase of a three-phase line may be out while the other two are still operating.