After any big storm or natural disaster, its hard to know just what to do in any given situation. There are specific safety precautions that need to be remembered, especially with a commodity as powerful and potentially dangerous as electricity. Below are some commonly asked questions and their answers, which we hope will help you deal with emergency or other electrical situations, should they happen.
Power Outage FAQ
Call 1-866-374-1234. York Electric encourages you to call our 24-hour ‘Power Touch’ outage reporting system so we can quickly locate where the problem is occurring and send crews out right away. Any detailed information you can supply about the outage is very beneficial in the trouble shooting process. Note: Before reporting the outage, YEC recommends that you first check your main breakers in your electrical panel.
Discard all food that came in contact with flood waters including canned goods. It is impossible to know if containers were damaged and the seal compromised. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers. There is no way to safely clean them if they have come in contact with contaminated flood waters. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water.
Drink only approved or chlorinated water. Consider all water from wells, cisterns, and other delivery systems in the disaster area unsafe until tested. Purchase bottled water, if necessary, until you are certain that your water supply is safe. Keep a 3-day supply of water or a minimum of 3 gallons of water per person.
Discard food that has been near a fire. Food exposed to fire can be damaged by the heat of the fire, smoke fumes, and chemicals used to fight the fire .
Food in cans or jars may appear to be okay, but the heat from a fire can activate food spoilage bacteria. If the heat is extreme, the cans or jars themselves can split or rupture, rendering the food unsafe.
One of the most dangerous elements of a fire is sometimes not the fire itself, but toxic fumes released from burning materials. Discard any raw food or food in permeable packaging—cardboard, plastic wrap, screw-topped jars, bottles, etc.—stored outside the refrigerator. Food stored in refrigerators or freezers can also become contaminated by fumes. The refrigerator seal isn’t airtight and fumes can get inside.
Chemicals used to fight the fire contain toxic materials and can contaminate food and cookware. Food that is exposed to chemicals should be thrown away—the chemicals cannot be washed off the food. This includes food stored at room temperature, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as food stored in permeable containers like cardboard and screw-topped jars and bottles. Cookware exposed to fire-fighting chemicals can be decontaminated by washing in soap and hot water. Then submerge for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach per quart of water.
No, frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun’s rays even when the temperature is very cold. Refrigerated food may become too warm and foodborne bacteria could grow. The outside temperature could vary hour by hour and the temperature outside will not protect refrigerated and frozen food. Additionally, perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals. Animals may harbor bacteria or disease; never consume food that has come in contact with an animal.
Rather than putting the food outside, consider taking advantage of the cold temperatures by making ice. Fill buckets, empty milk cartons or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Then put the homemade ice in your refrigerator, freezer, or coolers.
Never taste food to determine its safety! You will have to evaluate each item separately. If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, read the temperature when the power comes back on. If the appliance thermometer stored in the freezer reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine the safety. Remember you can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze.
Refrigerated food should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for 2 hours.
Yes, the food may be safely refrozen if the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. You will have to evaluate each item separately. Be sure to discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices. Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat. See the attached charts for specific recommendations.
Check for water saturation of your ceilings and light fittings inside and outside. If wet, call us immediately. If there is no obvious damage to your light fittings, turn off all but one light. Check the lighting circuit’s fuse or circuit breaker operation at your switchboard. Turn off your main switch and replace the fuse. Turn the main switch again. If the fuse blows, call YEC.
YEC uses an automatic phone answering system to handle power outage reports. If your correct phone number is on file with our office, your phone call can be handled more efficiently. Having the correct contact information also allows us to make any follow-up calls to you about electric service problems. If your phone number has changed since you signed up for your electric service, please contact our member services department at 803-684-4248.
This depends on the amount of damage sustained and current conditions. Field personnel must complete a damage assessment before any reliable estimate can be made.
Momentary outages occur when a disturbance on the line is detected. These disturbances could be caused by a lightning strike, a squirrel or tree branch contacting the line, or a downed line or outage in a nearby area, etc. If a fault or short circuit occurs on a power line, a device called a recloser opens to stop it and then quickly closes. This device allows power to continue flowing through the line with only a brief interruption of service rather than causing an extended power outage. Although the process is quick and usually temporary, it may cause your lights to blink. If the short circuit continues, the recloser will operate or ‘trip’ three times before eventually stopping the flow of electricity and causing a power outage. This process protects the lines from damage by cutting off power to the affected section of the line and isolating the problem until it can be repaired.
If you notice unusual periodic variations in the normal brightness of your lights, sometimes very bright, sometimes dull, call us. These are symptoms of a potentially hazardous situation. Turn off all your motors and appliances, and leave a minimum of lights on.
Some neighborhoods get electricity from several different circuits, so you may notice your lights are out, but your neighbors have power. In such cases, the problem could be originating from your house’s electric line, a particular tap line, a main feeder line, or at the substation. For us to determine where the problem originates, it is extremely important that you call 1-866-374-1234 and report the outage with your exact street address and correct phone number.
This may be an incidence of partial power. At this point, members should unplug large/major appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, air conditioners, etc., as this could cause a power fluctuation and result in another outage. Once lights are bright, indicating full power has been restored, it is safe to plug in major appliances.
Lights being dimmer than usual, hot plates slow to cook, and motors failing to start are all indicative that there might be a problem in the high voltage system. If you observe any of these in your home, turn appliances off and unplug them. Leave a minimum of lights on (such as a fluorescent) and call YEC.
During times of multiple power outages, YEC concentrates our initial restoration efforts in the areas and on the power lines that restore electricity to the greatest number of people in the shortest period of time. We place emphasis on vital community services, emergency services and public safety. Please be patient, and we will restore your electric service as soon as we possibly can.
Many people think that the loud noise they heard was the sound of a transformer exploding, due to lightning or other extreme conditions. This was probably not the case. The noise could have been a fuse blowing. YEC’s power lines use fuses in a similar manner to the way you use fuses in your home. These fuses protect parts of our distribution system when severe weather strikes. The noise can be substantial leading many people to think something has exploded. When reporting an outage, it is very helpful when you tell us you heard a loud noise because it helps us isolate the location of problems on our lines.
Some smoke alarms are powered by AC (alternating current) and use a battery backup. When these units lose power momentarily they may chirp several times to inform you they are on backup power or are returning to main power. For more information, review the manufacturer’s documentation on your type of alarm.
If you receive a tingling sensation from any electrical appliances turn off the electricity immediately. Do not make contact with or let anyone else near the suspected appliance and call YEC.
You should first refer to your disaster plan and call your home health nurse and physician. You should notify your family and/or friends and call EMS especially if your situation is life threatening. YEC reminds members who have extreme critical health needs that require a continuous power source during an outage, to make arrangements before the crisis to relocate to a place where those needs can be met. Another option is to make personal arrangements for a generator to hook up to machines that have to be kept running. Generators should never be hooked into a home or business’ electric circuit. Generators should only be connected directly to critical care machines or other appliances.
In a major storm, assume you may be without power for some time. Turn off electric appliances (like iron or stove) so you won’t create a safety hazard when the power is turned back on. Remember to include air-conditioning among appliances you turn off. Never report hazardous situations by e-mail. Always call the office at 1-866-374-1234 so we can respond immediately!
Power Restoration FAQ
Restoring power after widespread outages is a big job that involves more than simply throwing a switch or removing a tree from a line. The main goal is to safely restore power to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible. In order to accomplish this, the process begins with a damage assessment of the co-op’s lines and facilities by employees who have been specifically trained to accomplish those tasks. The assessment allows YEC to direct its resources (both labor and materials) to areas where they are needed the most.
If there is damage to power plants, switchyards or transmission lines, those facilities must be repaired by our power supplier before we can restore your service. Transmission lines seldom fail, but they can be damaged by storms. Tens of thousands of people could be served by a single high-voltage transmission line. When those facilities are working, problems in your co-op’s electric distribution system can be corrected.
Substations are repaired first. When a major outage occurs, the local distribution substations are checked first. If the problem can be corrected at the substation level, power may be restored to a large number of people. YEC has 24 substations on its system and there are over 3,500 miles of distribution lines which are routed from the substations.
Distribution lines are repaired. Main distribution supply lines are checked next, if the problem cannot be isolated at the substation. These supply lines carry electricity away from the substation to a group of members, such as a subdivision. When power is restored at this stage, all members served by this supply line could see the lights come on, as long as there is no problem farther down the line.
Individual services restored. The final supply lines, called service lines, carry power from the transformer on utility poles or underground transformers outside houses or other buildings. Line crews fix the remaining outages based on restoring service to the greatest number of members. Sometimes, damage will occur on the service line between your house and the transformer on the nearby pole. This may explain why you have no power when your neighbor does.
You should always call YEC when you experience an outage. This is especially important if you see lines or poles down, sparking, or potential hazards preventing you from leaving your property or blocking any roadways. Call YEC’s outage reporting system, Power Touch, at 1-866-374-1234.
We encourage members to use 1-866-374-1234 whenever they have an outage, but especially during widespread outages. This automated system can take many more calls than our employees. An outage notification with all the pertinent member and electric distribution system data needed to restore your power is recorded within seconds in our operations center. It is extremely important for YEC to have your up-to-date telephone number – the one associated with your co-op account. Having your correct phone number will allow YEC to dispatch crews as quickly as possible.
Call any time you have a power outage. We are here to serve you. Once you report the outage, try not to call YEC or the automated outage line again unless you have an emergency. Be assured our crews are doing everything possible to restore your power as soon as possible. Unnecessary calls prevent those who have not reported their outage from getting through to report their outage. Also, duplicate calls can generate multiple outage records for the same location.
If you have medical equipment necessary to sustain life or avoid severe medical complications, notify YEC at once – don’t wait for an emergency. The dispatch office keeps a list of such members so service restoration may be properly prioritized. Priority consideration is given to these households in the event of an interruption of service such as a severe storm. It’s important to note, however, that no one can guarantee service continually. If you use special medical equipment, you should make advance arrangements either for emergency backup power or to relocate to a hospital or other facility during emergencies.
Listen to emergency recommendations provided by lead agencies such as local emergency management, civil defense, Red Cross, or police. Follow their recommendations.
YEC does not de-energize facilities because of anticipated damage such as flooding, ice or high winds. The disconnect devices on electrical equipment remain energized until a storm causes them to operate as designed and shut off current.
It probably is because before service may be restored to you and your neighbors, work must be completed at another location.
There could be several reasons: Fuses or circuit breakers in your home could have tripped; trees could have fallen on your service; the transformer that serves you could have a blown fuse or other damage; the primary line could be de-energized because of damage; many YEC lines have more than one wire and your transformer may be the only one connected to the wire that is “dead”.
Once damage to major lines has been repaired, YEC will work on lines serving individuals. At that time, we will determine if an electrician should fix the damage or if we can. Generally speaking, YEC will repair problems up to the weatherhead on overhead service and up to the meter on underground service. Past these points, an electrician is needed.
You could have a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse in your home’s electric panel, resulting in partial service. If so, reset the breaker. You may also have a broken connector or wire at one of the service leads to your house. If so, call 1-866-374-1234.
You can’t! Consider all cables and wires energized, whether electrical, cable television or telephone. After a storm any wire can be energized if it falls or gets wrapped around an energized line, whether a few feet or a block away. If a line is in water, there is even more reason to be cautious. Consider it and the water energized.
Connecting a portable or recreational vehicle (RV) generator to home wiring can cause safety problems. Ideally, appliances should be directly plugged into a generator. If you must hook the generator to the main electric panel, it is very important to disconnect your home from YEC’s electrical system first. If not disconnected, power can flow from your generator into outside utility lines and kill or injure crews working on the lines – even some distance away. You could even injure a neighbor if power from your generator flows along common lines to another house.
When electric service is restored to your area, disconnect your generator before turning on power to your home. If you don’t, the generator can be damaged. When using a generator, make sure it has proper ventilation. It should only be operated outside. Remember the generator’s rated wattage is a function of the number of appliances it will power. The wattage of lights or other appliances run off the generator as a total should not exceed the rated wattage of the generator. The manufacturer’s recommendations must be followed for proper usage and load. If you have any doubts, consult a qualified electrician.
One of our top priorities will be to remove trees and debris that have damaged electrical equipment and are preventing service restoration. Members should not attempt to remove or trim foliage within 10 feet of a power line. If a tree or tree limbs have fallen on a power line or pulled it down, do not attempt to get close to the line. If the line is sparking, call YEC at 1-866-374-1234 and report a downed line.
Once your service is restored every effort will be made to keep it on. Keep in mind, however, that as we repair other parts of the system, some interruptions may be required. In addition, YEC works closely with county, city and state agencies. At their request, we may have to interrupt a circuit if there is a fire or some other emergency. And during ice storms, it is not uncommon for the weight of ice on the line or surrounding trees to cause power lines to break. If the storm continues, a crew may restore your power, and then, with the further accumulation of ice on the lines, your lines may break again.
No. Since YEC has no control over damage done to facilities during storms or other natural disasters, members at large could not be expected to pay for any individual member’s food that might spoil due to storm damage and resulting from electric service interruptions. Remember, electrical disturbances that cause you damage are likely to cause your cooperative damage too, but on a much larger scale. One lighting strike, for example, can cause equipment failure to your cooperative costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore, we do all we can to reasonably protect the electric system. You must do your part by protecting your own equipment from any storm damage or loss of power.
No. YEC maintains and operates facilities in a manner calculated to provide safe and reliable service. During abnormal weather, we make every effort to provide continuous service, but cannot be responsible for complete or partial failure or interruption of service, or for fluctuations in voltage from causes beyond our control. Just prior to a storm, and during early stages of restoration, members may wish to turn off or limit use of electronically sensitive and/or nonessential appliances.
Overhead services are more exposed to ice, high winds and flying debris. Underground facilities are subject to flooding. Damage to an overhead transformer is often easier to find. Damage to a pad mounted transformer serving underground cable may not be readily visible. Underground lines are susceptible to damage from digging and trenching equipment. And the cost of installing and maintaining underground conductor over hundreds of miles of sparsely populated rural areas would result in an enormous increase in the cost of electricity to you.
YEC’s service territory includes some 3,500 miles of electrical distribution line in a four county region. Restoration time, therefore, depends to a large degree on how many different lines are significantly damaged. Severe damage to transmission systems would have the most disabling effect on restoration efforts.
YEC works hard to update the local news media on the overall progress of restoration efforts affecting the area. YEC issues information releases to the news media regarding restoration progress during major power outages. Listening to the radio, or checking YEC’s website via battery-operated web devices are the best ways for you to be informed of storm restoration progress. Be sure to have an emergency kit, equipped with a battery-operated radio and fresh batteries, so you’re ready in case of a major power outage.
If damage from a storm exceeds our capability to restore service in a reasonable time, we will request crews from other cooperatives. Electric cooperatives work together to assist one another in times of need. In areas not affected by the storm, only a minimum crew will be left to handle calls. Members should expect routine service request calls such as security light repairs or meter connects to be delayed due to the storm.
Before calling to report an outage:
- Check all circuit breakers or fuses to help determine if your service outage might be the result of a household problem.
- Call a licensed electrician if you have significant water damage in your home that might make it unsafe or if the meter outside your home or any of the piping and wires on the wall of your home looked damaged.