Service restoration follows a 5-step process:
First, ensure power is flowing to substations; repair transmission line if necessary, and energize substation.
Repair and energize main “feeder” circuits from substations. Smaller “tap” lines may be disconnected to energize the main circuit. Tap lines carry power from the circuits into smaller communities, developments, and individual homes and businesses.
After restoring main circuits at substations, crews move to the next substation and repeat the process.
Completing Steps 1-3 restores service to a large number of members.
Crews will return to main circuits and repair damage along smaller “tap” lines. Priority is based on the number of members served by each tap. Crews will re-energize each tap until repairs are complete.
After all multiple customer taps are repaired and energized, crews will repair taps serving small customers or single accounts and perform repairs restoring service to individual customers.
Power restoration has to follow these steps. Working on an individual home before the substation and main lines are up and running will not restore the power to your home. It would be like putting the roof on the house before pouring the foundation and building the walls.
Even if you don’t see trucks in your area, that doesn’t mean that repairs are not being done. For example, the damage causing your outage may be at the substation or down a right of way that is not visible from your home.
The crews must restore all the main lines first to restore the feeder lines. There is no way of telling how much damage is on a line without patrolling the entire line.
The short answer is sometimes lineworkers do work around the clock. SEC approaches each outage restoration based on the variables present for that outage event. If we believe we can restore power systemwide by working through the night, that’s what we do. When we feel certain we will not be able to restore all power overnight, we find a stopping point for most line personnel after dark, and we return first thing the next day to resume restoration. In these cases, we still leave our duty crews working overnight to restore power and address emergencies. Note, in some cases, we bring all crews in due to environmental hazards. This can happen during the day or at night. Winds, lightning and accumulating ice can contribute to extreme hazards that make safe restoration of the electric grid impossible. SEC places the safety of our personnel above all outage restoration activity.
SEC’s electric distribution system main lines consist of three ‘phase’ wires. It is possible for one of these phases to be without power while the other two phases continue to provide power flow. It is also possible you are served by a tap line near the main line. In these cases, power can be interrupted to the tap while the main line stays on. It is also possible your transformer has failed. If the tap is on and the transformer is not working, your power will be out while many or all your neighbors’ power remains on.
If an outage occurs after-hours on a ‘blue sky’ day, SEC’s system operators must spring into action and notify on-call line personnel. These on-call line personnel must get the information, get ready and drive to the outage locations. Once onsite, the line technician looks for the problem. When the problem is found, line personnel work to safely restore power. As mentioned earlier, the safety of our personnel is paramount. At SEC, safety is a core value, woven into the fabric of everything we do. Safe restoration of electricity requires line personnel to take steps to protect themselves when restoring power. Each step in the process from the member calling to report the outage to the moment power is restored takes time. In major outage situations, we can have hundreds of outage locations to visit, exacerbating the estimated time to restore power systemwide.
The Cooperative does work all year to prepare for storms. SEC’s storm preparation does not have seasonal boundaries. We inspect and maintain substations and apparatus monthly, quarterly, annually or over a period of years, all based on industry standards. That includes poles. In 2021, more than 14,000 were inspected. Ones deemed emergencies were replaced immediately. SEC also cut almost 9,000 hazard trees in 2021. Often, it is trees beyond the right-of-way that fall and causes outages. On any given day, SEC is ready to respond to power outages for our members.
Under normal circumstances, our outage map is a great tool to track the status of outages. But when there is a large amount of damage, it sometimes cannot keep up with the changes that are happening so quickly and frequently.
SEC experiences high volumes of phone calls during major outages. Unfortunately, this can tie up the multiple phone lines the cooperative uses and lead to longer than normal on-hold times. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.
Members can also report their outage by signing up for our outage texting service: sec.coop/outagetexting.
No, 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 power is out in your area, be aware that neighbors incorrectly using electric generators could send electricity into the lines. This could be deadly.
LEAVE ALL LINE WORK, INCLUDING TREE REMOVAL, TO THE HIGHLY TRAINED CREWS USING THE PROPER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AND EQUIPMENT!
SEC cannot guarantee your electric service. Things beyond our control, like storms and car/power pole accidents, will always tear down power lines and disrupt the flow of electricity.
Members who depend on electrical equipment for medical necessity should always have alternate plans in place if the power goes out for an extended time. This may include a backup power source, extra medical supplies, or an alternate location until the outage is over.
Situations often change during a major restoration causing crews to be reassigned to other locations. Crews may leave and return to some locations. Also, crews may arrive in your area and, upon further assessment, determine that work must first be completed at another location in order to bring power into your area.
As crews work to get additional lines on, it may cause power to dim or blink unexpectedly. These power surges can affect electronic equipment. There are two simple ways to best protect your electronic equipment. The first is to unplug them during electrical storms or an outage. Lights can flicker on and off during the restoration process, so avoiding the outlet altogether ensures your equipment is not getting that jolt of electricity that is passing through.
Point-of-use surge protection devices, like power strips, can protect electronics during most surges. Make sure it says that it provides surge protection on the box and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. These devices are the next best thing to unplugging the item until full restoration is complete.