Safety & Security

Be prepared for winter outages

Use these tips and stay alert during freezing weather

With the extremely cold weather on the way, outages may occur. There may be several different causes like fallen trees, animal interference, or an auto accident.

PEC breaker box

In fact, fallen trees is one of the most common reasons outages occur. Trees don’t just fall during windstorms. Dead and damaged branches can fall and take out a power line or utility pole even on a clear and sunny day, particularly if they’ve been weakened by recent high winds or weather events. See other possible reasons for outages here.

To prepare, it’s important to understand how certain appliances work, what to do if an outage occurs, and what assistance and programs PEC offers. Here are a few tips to follow during the winter months.

Home breakers

If your power goes out, the first thing you should do before reporting an outage to PEC is check your home breakers. Doing so may provide a simple fix to getting the lights back on yourself.

Circuit breakers are designed to protect your home from power surges and electrical shorts. They trip open if there’s a problem, causing you to lose power in areas of your home. It’s important to know most homes have two breakers; one outside, usually next to your meter or HVAC unit, and the main fuse box, which is usually inside.

You can quickly and easily check these breakers to determine if you have an open breaker or a true power outage. But before checking, follow these steps to ensure you’re doing it safely and correctly.

  • Start with the fuse box. First, hold your hand near the box to check if there is heat coming off the panel. If there is, step back and call an electrician. If the panel feels normal, check the switches for any that are turned towards the “off” position — these are your tripped breakers.
  • Flip any tripped breakers all the way to the “off” position and then back to “on.” If the power is back on, make sure to close the breaker box properly.
  • If the power is still off, head outside to the other breaker box, usually next to your electric meter or HVAC unit. Follow the same steps as above. Do not touch outside breakers if it is raining or wet!

How to report

An outage can be reported to PEC three different ways. By calling the outage line at 888-883-3379, by texting “outage” to 25022, or on SmartHub.

To utilize the texting feature, the number you text from must be the number associated with your account or meter and saved within your PEC account profile.

Protecting appliances

To protect appliances during an outage, use surge protectors to provide a defense against power spikes and surges. A lightning strike or downed power line can send a surge of electricity through your home that can potentially damage appliances, computers, televisions, and other equipment.

Surge protectors are designed to die in the event of a surge to protect your things. In the event of an extended outage, it is safest to unplug all electronics. Surge protectors are also a convenient way to disconnect several devices at once. When the power comes back on, wait a few minutes for the electricity to stabilize before plugging your things back in.

Health equipment

All our members count on us to provide continuous, reliable power, but none more than those who rely on life-sustaining electrical equipment. For future emergencies, if you or someone at your home has special medical needs, you may be eligible for our Medical Necessity Program. Please note, the Medical Necessity Program does not guarantee priority electric service restoration, and locations registered in the program are not exempt from planned service interruptions. PEC provides a list of known community resources, which is available here.

Following severe storms, damage to our electric distribution system may be extensive. In extreme situations, it could take hours, or even days, to complete repairs. In case of severe storms and power outages, members who must have a constant supply of electricity should be prepared with an emergency backup plan. The plan could include arrangements to move to an alternate location, use of a portable generator, and/or installation of a battery backup on important electrical devices.

Generators

Having a generator on hand in case of an extended outage is a convenient way to maintain access to electricity, but they also pose serious safety risks if not used properly. Prepare yourself and your family with these tips.

  • Consider your needs when purchasing a generator. Battery power stations, or electric generators, offer many of the same features as gas generators without as many potential safety hazards — and no exhaust or noise.
  • Read the manufacturer’s safety and operating instructions before use. Follow the instructions for grounding carefully, and never plug the generator into a wall outlet.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, toxic gas present in generator exhaust. To prevent buildup and exposure to CO, never use a generator indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces, or basements. Ensure that outdoor placement allows proper ventilation to prevent buildup in occupied spaces.
  • Exposure to generator exhaust can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Install carbon monoxide alarms and check that they are functioning correctly before using your generator.
  • Never leave the generator running while you are away and check on it regularly while it’s running.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use grounded, three-pronged extension cords with an amperage rating that meets your intended use.
  • Always allow the generator to cool down completely before you refuel, and never try to refuel while it is running.

Before installing a generator that connects to your home’s electric circuits, please read our requirements, and call 888-554-4732 if a service modification or meter disconnect is needed. Be aware that it is a violation of electrical code to connect a generator without a UL-approved open-transition transfer switch.

If a generator is online when electrical service is restored, it can become a fire hazard. Improperly installed generators can create hazardous conditions for PEC employees working to restore power or make repairs; a generator connected in parallel with PEC’s distribution network can produce a voltage that is potentially deadly to a lineworker making repairs down the line.

To read more about what to do during an outage, click here.