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What to do When the Electricity Goes Off

By Dave Trosdahl on September 2nd, 2007

Today, with the electric service in most areas being as dependable as it is, some customers response to no power is total confusion. Electric companies say this is even more true in good weather. The fact of the matter is, the power can go off at any time for any number of reasons.

First of all, relax, it’s going to be okay. Even if it is the dead of winter, it takes hours for your house to cool off enough to cause any damage. Under normal circumstances, in winter, your furnace might not run for long periods of time. Besides, electrical power is typically restored in minutes, so other than being an inconvenience, there is usually no need for alarm. In the summer months you will simply be without refrigeration and air conditioning for a few minutes or hours. Simply limit the number of times you open outside doors and try not to open the refrigerator or freezer more than necessary. Everything will be back to normal in no time.

Then next thing you should do is check your main breaker or fuse panel. This is usually located somewhere in the house within eight feet of your electric meter, somewhere in the house (like the basement or utility room), or else outside on the side of the house or on a pole. If you don’t know where your main panel is, find it now. You can also listen to your meter for a slight humming noise to determine if electricity is flowing through it.

If your home is being monitored by an electronic alarm system, and you have been alerted of an outage, you should first verify that an outage exists before you call. Once you have established that your fuses are good and that the main breaker is on, then you should call your electric utility company. You should have your physical address ready as well as your phone number and ideally, your account number. If you live in a rural area, it doesn’t hurt to mention which village or township you are in either.

Most electric companies have people available to answer the phones at any time of the day or night. If you need to hold, be patient. If there has been a power outage, many people are perhaps calling to report the same problem. If you see or hear something which you think might have contributed to the power outage, like a tree on the line, sparking or the loud sound of a transformer being hit by lightening, you should share this information with the dispatcher. It will help the linemen isolate the problem.

To prepare for a possible power outage, have some flashlights and candles ready. If you live in a cold climate consider buying a portable kerosene heater. If you have these items, know where your main electrical panel is and how to tell if a fuse is blown or a breaker has been tripped, other than being temporarily inconvenienced, you will be just fine.