As warmer temperatures increase the risk of spring thunderstorms, high winds and other severe weather, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) reminds households of the steps they can take to prepare for, and recover safely from, storm-related power outages.
Additionally, the PUC cautions residents to give utility crews ample room to perform their repair work and to use extra care when traveling. For your protection, as well as for the safety of emergency crews, it is important to watch for work along roadways and to slow down and provide extra room in those work areas.
The PUC encourages residents to consider the following tips before a storm strikes:
- Know Your Utility Hotlines – Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotline phone numbers for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on your monthly bills and posted on the PUC website.
- Save Utility Website Address – Your utility’s outage reporting system can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Bookmark these electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites.
- Keep Your Cell Phone Charged – A well-charged phone will keep you in contact with your utility, other emergency services and family members during any power outage.
- Secure Supplies – Keep necessary food, medicine, and other supplies on-hand, including batteries for flashlights.
Should you lose power during a storm, keep the following points in mind:
- Call Your Utility Hotline to Report Outages – do not assume that the utility already knows about your outage or that others have already called.
- Keep Clear of Wires – do NOT touch or approach any fallen lines.
- Stay Away from Objects or Puddles in contact with downed power lines.
- Do NOT Try to Remove Trees or Limbs from power lines.
- Do NOT Call 9-1-1 to Report Power Outages – report those to your utility. Calling 9-1-1 to report non-emergency issues like service outages can take resources away from other emergencies. SPECIAL NOTE: If you see a downed power line, immediately call your electric utility and/or 9-1-1.
Households should consider the following tips to help stay safe until power is restored:
- Use Flashlights or Battery-Operated Lanterns for emergency lighting – do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
- Turn Off Lights and Electrical Appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can damage equipment (leave one light on to alert you that power has been restored).
- Use Generators Safely – If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage or anywhere close to a window or vent. Also, connect the equipment you want to operate directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home’s electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines. Additional generator tips are available here.
- Check on Elderly Neighbors and those with special needs who might need assistance.
Consumers using natural gas appliances can also experience storm-related issues:
- Check Gas Appliances – electric power outages can affect home appliances that operate on natural gas. If they do not function properly when power is restored, call a professional for service.
- Evacuate if You Smell Natural Gas – get everyone out of the building immediately.
- Leave the Door Open and Do NOT Use Phones – do NOT switch lights or appliances on or off; and do NOT take any other action while inside the building.
- Call 9-1-1 from a safe location – after you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.
Heavy rains can also generate the threat of flooding in some parts of Pennsylvania. The PUC urges homeowners and businesses to consider the following flood-related electric safety tips:
- Avoid flooded homes or businesses – submerged wires, power outlets or appliances may energize standing water.
- Do not touch electric panels, outlets, or appliances if you are wet or standing in water.
- If your basement floods, do not enter unless you are sure the water is not in contact with a source of electricity. Call a qualified electrician to disconnect the power before you enter a flooded basement.
- Utilities will inspect flooded areas and will assess when it is safe to restore service to their systems – but homeowners and businesses should work with licensed electricians regarding repairs to customer-owned lines and appliances.
- The utility may require you to have your system inspected by a licensed electrician before it restores power, if the utility removed your electric meter and cut power to your home due to flooding (contact your utility for any clarification).
- Do not attempt to plug in or turn on any water-damaged appliances until they have been inspected by a qualified electrician and determined to be safe.
- Consult professionals regarding the need to repair or replace water-damaged devices.
Natural gas service can also be impacted by flooding, homeowners and businesses are reminded of the following flood-related safety tips for natural gas service:
- If you are outside a building and you smell gas, do not enter the building – call 9-1-1 and your gas company from a safe location.
- If you are inside a building and you smell gas, leave immediately – call 9-1-1 and your gas company from a safe location.
- Contact a licensed professional to clean, repair and test all appliances and pipes if your home or business has flooded and any of your natural gas appliances (including furnaces, boilers, water heaters and dryers) have been affected.
- Do not attempt to restart natural gas appliances yourself – contact a professional.
- Contact your gas utility to inspect your gas meter and regulator if flood waters rose above those systems.