Since its founding in 1937, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative has pledged to provide its members with the highest quality of electric service at the lowest possible cost. A variety of factors can cause outages which interrupt this flow of power. Whether it's extreme weather, tree damage, vehicle accidents, or even animal contacts, outages can pop up at the most inconvenient of times. But when an outage strikes, know that SREC's crews are working hard to make sure that your power is restored quickly, efficiently, and safely.
This page contains information on power outages and outage preparedness, as well as buttons below that link to various outage-related resources. As always, if you are experiencing a power outage, we encourage you call our outage hotline at 877-504-6463 to make a report. To view active outages affecting our system in real-time, visit our Online Outage Map.
First Update (5/10/22, 12:19 pm)
At the moment we are experiencing a system-wide outage and are working to find the cause. It is not often when such an outage occurs and it sometimes takes some time to get staff into areas to diagnose the issue. Once we diagnose the issue we will start to restore the system or temporarily restore sections of the system. We ask for your patience while we address this issue. Thank you.
Second Update (5/10/22, 2:06 pm)
We are pleased to report that power to all members has been restored. We are still collecting information from all crews. Once we have had the opportunity for review, we will share more details.
Third Update (5/10/22, 4:15 pm)
There was much speculation about today’s widespread outage. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... well, in this case it is worth 11,000+ outages. Someone cut down a tree on their property and it fell onto a section where we have both transmission and distribution lines, causing a fault that tripped all the way back through to our delivery point. That person is very lucky to have not been harmed.
SREC’s linemen were doing system improvements at one of our substations on this nice cool day, replacing an older transmission line recloser with a new one. To do that work safely, we had to de-energize the substation and backfeed some of our lines so homes did not have to be without power while we did this work. When the outage occurred due to the cut tree falling on the lines, our entire system was affected. As such, it took a longer time to restore each circuit. There isn’t just a single switch to close to pick everything back up.
We would like to remind our members to be always look up and around for wires and possible dangers when cutting or trimming trees. If a tree you are cutting has the potential to fall into power lines, you should check with SREC first. In many cases, we can de-energize the line for you. That protects you and also our system.
Power Blinks - When your lights blink briefly or you lose power for just a few moments, you have experienced a momentary outage that is frequently called a "blink." If you notice digital clocks in your home blinking "12:00," the default display, it is likely your home experienced a blink while you were asleep or away from your home. These outages happen when automatic devices called reclosers detect a problem, such as a small animal or branch on the lines. The reclosers, much like a circuit breaker in your home, temporarily shut off power in response to these issues in order to protect our electrical equipment from potential damage. After the initial shut-off, they restore power within moments. If the problem was temporary, members will only experience a blink. If the problem persists, the recloser will keep power shut off until a crew can remove the interference or make repairs.
Sustained Outage - A sustained outage is a total loss of power in a localized portion of the service territory that lasts for a sustained period of time. These are the longer outages that everyone dreads. These types of outages are caused by unplanned circumstances that interrupt the flow of power and cause members in the affected area to be without electricity until their area's power is restored or, if applicable, they are backfed with electricity from another location. Many factors could end up being the cause of a sustained outage (see the Causes of Outages section below). If your power goes out, we encourage you to report this to our outage hotline, 877-504-6463. Member reports help us verify that we have accurate information on the location affected by the outage. When an outage strikes, our staff and crews coordinate to fix the problem as soon as possible. You can view outages that are affecting our system on our real-time Online Outage Map and follow our Facebook, Twitter, or email service for progress updates on major outages.
Planned Outage - Sometimes Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative needs to interrupt electric service to a specific area so our crews can perform scheduled maintenance safely. When this maintenance is needed, we always make phone calls to inform members who would be affected in advance. We encourage members to keep their contact information up-to-date with us so we have the best way to reach them if needed in anticipation of a planned outage. Planned outages are typically scheduled during weekdays when most members would be out of the house. We are aware that some members at home during those hours will be affected, but ask for their understanding so we can perform the kind of critical maintenance that keeps our system in the best shape possible. Members who are on our Medical Alert list will be called with information on the location and time of the outage and its estimated duration in order to prepare their secondary arrangements. For more information on planned outages, you can watch the video below.
Transmission Outage - In some cases, an unplanned, sustained outage can occur that is not due to damage or malfunction on SREC's system. This is known as a "transmission outage" because it occurs when our local flow of power is impacted by damage or malfunction affecting the utility that owns and maintains the transmission lines that transport Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative's power to its service territory. This does not mean that SREC purchases electricity from these utilities. Due the the United States' electric infrastructure, power purchased by SREC from its generation site must be transported to our service territory across lines owned by different transmission utilities and alongside power purchased by other distribution utilities. Transmission outages have the potential to affect large swaths of our members and can make it difficult to determine when power will be restored because repairs are being conducted by another company and crews. In many cases, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative can get around these difficulties by "backfeeding" power, meaning redirecting electricity from one area of our system that is unaffected by the outage to areas that are currently without power. If you would like more information on transmission outages and how your Cooperative's power is transported to our own lines, you can watch the video below.
Outages and other power interruptions such as power blinks can be caused by a variety of factors, some large and some small. Below is a list of the most common contributors to power outages:
- Tree Limbs - Falling trees or tree limbs that come into contact with our power lines are the leading cause of power interruptions on our system. Age of trees, compounded with factors such as damage from extreme weather or invasive pests, can make trees a risk for falling and damaging power lines, sometimes even breaking utility poles. In a heavily-wooded area like ours, this is a recurring issue and one that Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative takes very seriously. We encourage all members to be mindful of our tree-planting guidelines and we invest heavily in trimming trees limbs in our rights-of-way throughout our service territory. Visit our Tree Management page for more details on how SREC works to prevent blinks and outages caused by tree limbs.
- Weather - Power can be affected by weather events like extreme temperatures (either heat or cold), ice buildup on power lines, lightning strikes, or high winds and heavy rain from storms. In severe cases, older power lines can be completely broken by strong winds during major storms! In addition, the trees in our area, especially older, very tall trees that stand outside our rights-of-way and trimming areas, can be toppled by high winds and cause damage to utility lines and poles. Extreme weather events are on the rise which may cause more frequent outages than many members are used to. Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative has been tracking weather events in our area in order to ensure its crews are prepared to restore power efficiently and safely when an outage strikes.
- Animals - Small animals, typically squirrels or birds, are sometimes responsible for short circuiting pole-mounted electrical equipment like transformers or fuses. While these animals are able to safely perch on or climb across high voltage power lines, making secondary contact with another wire or piece of equipment gives the electrical current a path to the ground. This can disrupt your power, usually in the form of a power blink, when a pole-mounted recloser detects an abnormality in the flow of power. It is rarer for these circumstances to cause a sustained outage, but it is possible in cases where the animal comes in contact with certain pieces of sensitive equipment.
- Vehicle Accidents - Accidents involving road vehicles or farm and construction equipment can damage poles, sometimes even breaking them. In cases where a pole is broken, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative must install a replacement pole before power can be fully restored.
- Equipment Failure - Some outages can be caused by the failure or breakdown of electrical distribution equipment. These cases are rare for Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative's members due to SREC's commitment to stringent, regular maintenance and inspection of its electrical distribution technology. Pieces of equipment are replaced within each piece's "life cycle" to prevent cases of equipment failure and regular upgrades are implemented across our system to improve service reliability.
Be Prepared for Storms!
Power outages are an inconvenient disruption, but some are unfortunately unavoidable. Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative's crews work hard to restore power following an outage, though in the case of some large-scale outage events or extreme storms, it can be hard to determine when your lights may be coming back on. It helps to prepare ahead of time for these events so you can successfully ride out the storm, even without a generator. Following the tips below can help make sure you are ready for the next big storm:
Have Plenty of Food
Keep a 3-to-5-day supply of drinking water in plastic bottles. Plan on at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day, plus extra for pets.
Store a manual can opener with enough nonperishable foods for 3 to 5 days - Canned meats, tuna fish, and peanut butter are good foods to store.
Keep plenty of pet food on-hand for any animals in your home.
Conserve water by using paper plates and plastic utensils.
Invest in a camp stove or grill for outdoor cooking.
Stay In Touch
Have a portable, battery-powered radio and alarm clock.
Have one non-portable phone that will work even if power is interrupted.
Plan where to meet and how to communicate with family members if separated.
Keep essential family member contact information near your phone, in your wallet, and in your glove compartment.
Check online for information on local charging stations, or warming stations during winter storms. Your town or municipality will usually provide information on these services when available!
Keep Things Going
Keep plenty of gas in your car.
Keep extra batteries, matches, propane, charcoal, and firewood.
If you have a generator, make sure you know how to operate it safely.
Stay Happy, Healthy, and Warm
Coordinate with neighbors for care of the elderly and disabled living alone.
Maintain a supply of prescriptions, nonprescription drugs, vitamins, and special dietary foods.
Keep sanitary and personal hygiene supplies replenished. Premoistened cleansing towelettes are useful and help conserve water.
Use plastic trash bags and ties for garbage.
Put first-aid kits in your home and car.
Make sure you have cold weather clothing, foul weather gear, blankets, and sleeping bags.
Use flashlights and other battery-operated lighting instead of candles.
Keep fire extinguishers fully charged.
If your home uses well water, fill your bathtub with water for bathroom use before the storm.
If you own reptiles or other temperature-sensitive pets, covering their enclosure with blankets and regularly providing them with hand warmers or bottles full of warm water to lean against can help protect them from the cold.
To keep yourself and your family entertained without your electric-powered or internet-connected devices, make sure you have plenty of books, board games, puzzles, or other activities ready that can keep you busy until your power is restored.
Other Weather Links
Let's say your lights have just gone out. If you've checked your circuit breaker to verify that you have not blown a fuse and also confirmed that other homes in your area are also without power, you're likely experiencing a power outage. Your Co-op should display an outage in your area on our Online Outage Map and our crews will be preparing to respond to the situation. We encourage all members to call in to our outage hotline (877-504-6463) to report when they're experiencing an outage.
We ask for your patience while our crews begin the steps involved with restoring an outage (see the "Restoring an Outage" tab for details). Whether or not you've prepared for an extended outage using the tips above (in the Outage Preparedness section), here are some guidelines and tips that we ask our members to keep in mind while they wait for power to be restored:
- If it's dark outside, do NOT go out to look for storm damage. There may be downed power lines or other debris that can cause serious injury, as well as severe weather or vehicles that may not be equipped to stop for pedestrians in severe weather conditions.
- Stay off the roads unless it is absolutely necessary. Weather conditions may be unsafe for drivers. Additionally, it is best to keep the roads as clear as possible for utility and emergency vehicles.
- Do NOT try to remove any branches on your property that are tangled in power lines.
- If you see downed power lines on the ground, do not approach them. It is best to assume that all power lines are "live," even if they aren't visibly sparking. Keep your distance as well, because their electrical current can affect a wide perimeter around the downed lines.
- If you are connecting a generator to your home, follow all generator safety guidelines to ensure that you are using it safely. Improperly connecting a generator can lead to a deadly backfeed effect sent across power lines and using a generator in an enclosed space or in a non-ventilated area can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you require electric-powered medical equipment and qualify for our Medical Alert program, we recommend being prepared with a back-up plan (such as a generator or secondary location you can go to) that you can follow when your power goes out.
- If you are in need of medical assistance, call 911.
Home Tips While the Power is Off
- Turn off lights and sensitive appliances like computers, TVs, and stereos to protect them from a potential power surge once power is restored. It's recommended to keep one light switched on so it can signal when power is restored.
- Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer as much as possible to prevent cold air from escaping. Your food will keep longer if the doors remain closed. Food in a refrigerator will typically last about 4 hours before spoiling, and you should check each item for spoilage before serving.
- Dress in layers and use plenty of blankets if your power is out during the winter. Covering drafts and avoiding opening your doors will help prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from entering your home.
- Conserve battery power on your cell phones as much as possible so you have enough charge when it's most needed.
- Make use of the tips listed in the above Outage Preparedness section to ensure you have sufficient food, water, and first aid supplies to last you through a sustained outage.
- Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative's Online Outage Map provides a real-time visualization of outages affecting our system.
- For large outages affecting many members or sustained outages likely to last a long period, we provide regular updates through our Facebook, Twitter, and/or email service. Some of these updates will also be available to view on this webpage when an outage is ongoing.
- If you have questions related to Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative's outage response, you can consult our Outage FAQs and our Steps to Restoring an Outage sections.
- During large, extended outages, your town or municipality should provide information on charging stations for your devices or warming stations during winter storms. We will also share this information when it is available to us.
We often take electricity for granted. It makes our homes comfortable day-in and day-out, and it's at the ready with little more than the flip of a switch. Your Cooperative's lineworkers responsible for maintaining a complicated system of power lines that functions around the clock.
What goes on behind the scenes once that switch is thrown is far more complex. The power grid, which can be described as the largest, most complex machine ever built, involves an intricate network of power lines crisscrossing neighborhoods and open country over mountains and through towns. This grid has evolved over the last century to supply customers with safe, reliable, and affordable electricity.
The tricky thing about electricity is that it must be used, or moved to where it can be used, the second it's produced. It generally can't be stored like water or gas. What's more, electricity moves at the speed of light along the path of least resistance. This basic principle calls for a carefully monitored, intricate system to move it 24 hours a day.
The major cause of outages is damage caused by fallen trees, whether they are blown down by high winds or weighed down by snow and ice. That's why Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative has an ongoing right-of-way maintenance program cutting and trimming trees to keep a power line's path as clear as possible.
We take tree trimming very seriously, constantly trimming our territory on a four-year cycle. We often receive a lot of flack from our membership about how much we trim but we need to trim a tree for four years' worth of growth. Tree trimming is our largest cost for the Cooperative, but worth it to help prevent more frequent outages. You can learn more about our vegetation management program here.
Restoring power after a major outage is a big job that involves much more than simply throwing a switch or removing a tree from a line. The main goal is to restore power safely to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible.
We typically restore power after a major disaster or storm, such as an ice storm, hurricane, or tornado following the steps listed below. While power restoration priorities may differ between difference co-op electric systems, repairs generally follow a plan similar to the one shown here.
During a major outage, other cooperatives in areas not affected by the storm are prepared to help. They send lines crews to assist with restoring power. A small, localized storm may mean mutual aid crews don't have to come from too far of a distance away. When the storm is of large scale significance, like a hurricane, the mutual aid crews may be coming from a much further distance, requiring a day or even two, just to reach the affected co-op.
Transmission lines supply power to one or more transmission substations. These lines seldom fail, but they can be damaged by falling trees or storms. Tens of thousands of people could be served by one high-voltage transmission line, so if there is damage here it gets attention first.
A co-op may have several local distribution substations (Sussex REC has six), each serving a thousand or more members. When a major outage occurs, the substations are checked first. A problem here could be caused by failure in the transmission system supplying the substation. If the problem can be corrected at the substation level, power may be restored to a large number of people.
Many distribution supply lines (sometimes referred to as circuits or "three-phase 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 consumers (usually numbering in the hundreds), such as a town or main highways and roads. When power is restored at this stage, all consumers served by this supply lines could see the lights come on, as long as there is no problem farther down the line.
The final supply lines, called tap lines or "single-phase lines," carry power to the 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 can explain why you have no power when your neighbor does. Your Co-op needs to know you have an outage here, so a service crew can repair it.
Local conditions may lead to deviations and variations in this restoration plan. Every restoration has its own characteristics. Multiple crews are typically working on multiple areas simultaneously. Damage in one area may not be as severe as in another area. This can result in one area that has damaged three-phase lines appearing to be restored after an area that has only a few single-phase lines down. Timing of repairs has an effect as does ease or difficulty of repairs and what is involved with the repair.
Members themselves (not the Co-op) are responsible for damage to the service installation at the home or building, which includes the service entrance cable and the meter pan on the building. Your co-op can't fix this and you will need to call a licensed electrician to make the necessary repairs first. Then, the Co-op will come and re-establish the connection to the service wire from the pole.
It's a big job, but our line crews are up to the challenge. If there is an outage in your area, you can help crews pinpoint damage by calling us at 877-504-6463. Even if your neighbors have already called, every bit of information we have helps get the power flowing smoothly again.
To keep up with our restoration efforts, keep an eye on our Outage Map for a good visualization of where outages are in our territory, how many people are affected, and where crews have been assigned. For more detailed updates on an outage situation, follow our Facebook and Twitter pages, or join our email list. During major outages, we continuously post updates to keep our members informed as the situation develops. We will also post outage updates to this webpage during major ongoing outage, as other important information like locations of local warming shelters.
Why does SREC share transmission lines with JCP&L?/Why does SREC get its power from JCP&L?
While SREC does not buy its power from JCP&L, we are physically connected to the larger grid through them. The power we buy is through Allegheny Electric Cooperative in Harrisburg, PA and we joined with the 13 cooperatives in Pennsylvania to form Allegheny in 1937. We currently have two connection (delivery) points and a tie-point between them, which brings our purchased power in from the grid and into our service territory. We do have way to remotely switch between the feeds, depending on what else might be happening on our own lines.
How are outages classified on the outage map? Why is the number of total outages less than the number of members out?
The "Total Outages" value is not a measurement of the amount of homes without power. Each one of these outages is an issue on our system - whether it's downed lines, a broken pole, a blown transformer, or some other issue. These issues interrupt the flow of power to members' homes. Each individual outage can end up affecting a different number of members depending on the location of the outage. This is why it is important to consider both the "Total Outages" and "Out Now" values to fully understand the scope of an ongoing outage.
Why does the outage map show that a crew has been assigned to the outage when there are no crews on site? Why haven't I seen any SREC trucks in my area?
When a crew is assigned from our operations center to an outage, our outage map displays a marker of a lineman's silhouette to indicate that a crew has been assigned. This marker will be visible at the location of the outage, and will have the number of meters out of power noted on it. Gathering the necessary materials for the job and arriving at the scene of the problem can take time, so the crew may not arrive immediately after the outage is marked as "Crew Assigned." Additionally, the cause of an outage may be outside the area that's affected, so the assigned crew may not need to go to the residential areas affected by the power outage. This is why you may not see any of our crews in your area during an outage - they are working in another location that feeds power to your neighborhood.
Why don't you have all your crews out working when the outage map shows multiple outages?
If there is a major delivery point or transmission outage and an entire substation of ours is without power, our outage map will display each distribution circuit out of the substation as a separate outage, even though it really is one single outage. Most of our substations have three circuits, so a substation that is out of power will show three separate color-coded areas as outages. This is just the way our engineering model and map are designed, and how it translates into our outage map. For example, when our Vernon delivery point lost power, our outage map displayed this as 10 separate outages even though it technically was just a single, large outage. However, we only needed a couple of crews to patrol and find the single tree that was the cause, restoring all outages together.
Why does SREC not keep crews on site 24/7, ready to go?
This is both a cost and practicality issue. It would require more personnel, more trucks, and more buildings if we were to keep people on-site and working on a 24/7 cycle and ready to go in certain locations. Even just trying to dispatch crews into the field ahead of a storm could either put them in danger or prove to be unnecessary (and not cost-effective at all) as not all weather forecasts are perfect. SREC does, however, put additional crews on standby or, depending on the timing of the storm, keep them at the office in anticipation of a severe storm.
How do the crews work "around the clock?"
In the "good old days," linemen used to literally work 24-hour shifts, and many time longer than that, during storm restorations. This had proven to be a very unsafe practice - they are working in dangerous conditions with dangerous equipment. They are also driving large trucks on public roads, potentially exhausted. All linemen have CDL's (commercial driver's licenses) that are regulated by the Federal Department of Transportation. CDL regulations and other best practice safety rules now help keep linemen, and the public, safer. They can work 16-hour shifts and then get a mandatory 8-hour rest break before returning to work again. When in "around the clock" mode for outage restoration, the Cooperative tries to schedule the majority of shifts to be in the daylight hours - when work can be most productive and safest. However, we do keep some crews working overnight when others are on their rest breaks. Thus, the Cooperative can work "around the clock" to restore power.
Why is my area always the last to be restored? Why is power not restored on a first-out, first-on basis?
We focus on restoration of large sections first. For instance, we have to put a substations back in service that provides power to several hundred customers before having the capability to energize any individual services. The focus on the large pieces first get the most members back in service the fastest. From here, we focus on progressively smaller restoration efforts. The final stage is restoration of single services. We also can't restore power to locations further down the line without first restoring power to those areas closer to the power source.
Why don't we get bill credits for outages?
When power is out you do not get charged for power, as your monthly bill is only based on your electricity usage. If you have no power, you use no power, therefore you are not billed for any power. There is nothing to credit. As much as we'd like to, we cannot guarantee electricity to be 100% available and cannot compensate for power outages caused by anything out of our control, such as storms, car accidents, animals, etc.
Why doesn't SREC put its power lines underground?
Excavating trenches and drilling into rock to lay down wires underground in conduit is a very expensive and time consuming endeavor, especially when there is already an overhead network in place. Our mission is to provide the highest quality of service for the lowest possible price. Transitioning to underground would be a very expensive process and, as a not-for-profit cooperative, this cost would ultimately fall on our members.
While overhead lines are more susceptible to extreme weather, they are very reliable for most of the year and, in cases of damage, they can be repaired easily. When there is a fault on the line, finding and fixing the problem on an overhead system is a lot faster. It is harder and takes much longer to pinpoint the exact location of the fault when wires are below ground. This makes repairs more complicated, resulting in longer outage times and increased labor costs. While underground faults typically are less frequent and not as susceptible to weather, there would still be overhead vulnerabilities unless the entire system is underground. New residential developments typically do have their lines installed underground.
Why don't we make the poles taller than the trees?
Most distribution line poles are between 35-40 feet tall, with a small amount of 60-70 foot transmission line poles in some areas. Throughout our service territory, we have trees that are easily taller than that. Installing an even taller overhead system would require massive line trucks with 70' or 80' buckets. Navigating through all of our lake communities and narrow residential roads would be very difficult. Some equipment that linemen use from the ground would not be feasible.
Why do you have to cut my trees?
Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative continually strives to provide the highest level of service quality. This service level is defined by minimal interruptions and blinks, proper voltage, and overall reliability. Trees and vegetation are the single largest "culprits" when it comes to service interruptions. As a result, we are continuously trimming the right-of-ways to keep tree limbs away from our power lines. We have a contract with Asphlund Tree Experts, LLC to trim these rights-of-way.
These contractors will concentrate in select areas, trimming our entire service territory over the course of four years, and do as-needed trimming in other areas. Our policy when trimming trees (outside of emergency situations) is to cut and remove everything we cut. Landowners will ask for us to leave the wood for their own purposes from time to time. If you see wood laying around in the wake of our crews trimming, this is most likely the reason. This work will benefit you with fewer interruptions and blinks, and will improve your overall quality of service.
When planting trees, remember to take into consideration future growth (see the Tree Planting Guide). For more information on our policy on residential trees, please read out Tree Management page.
Why doesn't SREC cut more trees?
We maintain 10-25 foot clearances on either side of the power lines, along with 15 feet above them, depending on the line voltage (distribution or transmission). However, during an ice storm or a snowstorm with heavy, wet snow, a weighted tree can bend over or fall over, touching the lines from as far as 40-50 feet away. Additionally, in a wind storm a branch can be blown from nowhere near our right-of-way to land on the lines.
How are estimated restoral times determined?
We estimate restoral times in a variety of ways. Initially it is mostly computer generated. An estimated time factors in the time it takes the crew to get to the office (if after hours), do their safety checks on trucks, drive to the outage (which can be 30+ minutes from our yard), and assess the situation. It also includes time to account for what the reported outage includes. For example, if there is a car accident and the pole is broken, the crew will have to bring a new pole with them and, depending on the height of that pole, they may need more crew members than standard. Every situation is different, and every outage is a new potential danger. We estimate the time for all of this and then amend the time if the situation changes or repairs are taking longer. The outage map should not be taken as fact - it is an estimated time of restoral.
How do you plan to avoid major outages in the future?
Sussex Rural Electric's mission is to provide the highest quality of service at the lowest possible cost. In some years, this can be a tough battle. When you live in a rural area as we do, weather and vegetation often conspire to interfere with our constant flow of electricity. From the flicker of a momentary interruption when a tree limb hits a wire to the complete outage from ice bringing down lines completely, weather and vegetation have a definite impact on power reliability. While we cannot control Mother Nature, we can learn from each outage and work as efficiently and safely as we can to keep the outages to a minimum. We have advanced our technology in the past decade to go from a manual outage management system to an automated one, and we will continue to utilize new technology as it is developed within the industry. We have integrated many separate computer systems and continue to improve those integrations so that they work even more seamlessly, bridging together customer and engineering systems and data. We have increased our tree trimming cycle so that we trim all 700+ miles of our lines every four years, up from a five year cycle in the past. We have also increased our vegetation management budget to account for and remove "danger trees" - trees that are dead or dying and outside of the regular right-of-way, but that could still fall on our lines.
Why can't you tell me how long my power will be out?
If the outage is extensive with significant damage to our system, we cannot always tell what has been damaged until we begin to restore power. A connection that appears to be fine may, in fact, be damaged and will not show up until the lines to it are fixed and energized. We try to provide estimates of restoration time whenever possible via the radio, television, social media, or through our voluntary email alerts.
Why do I need to call? Don't you know right away when my power is out?
Our automatic metering system reports kWh use to us, but because this is a delay in this reporting we will not know immediately if your power is out. We will eventually receive information showing your power is out, but this may take some time. Calling our office when your power goes out is the best way to have us address the problem more quickly.
Additionally, an outage caused by something inside your home or business will not be reported to us by our metering system since our flow of power to the electric meter is still there. If you lose power, check to be sure your breakers haven't tripped. If they are fine, give us a call and we will try to determine the source of your outage.
There was a big storm with lots of people losing power. It seems like mine has been out longer. What do I do?
In large storms, damage hits all parts of our system. Our crews work to restore the largest number of customers and critical-need customers first then work their way through all the damage. Sometimes, the power line leading to your home has been damaged and we simply have not seen it. Here's a simple test: check your breakers to be sure they are all set properly, then check with your neighbors on both sides to see if they have power. If your breakers are fine and your neighbors have power, call us and we will get our crews to help you.
In the meantime:
- Have a flashlight and battery-operated radio handy. Be sure to have extra batteries on hand.
- Have a hardwired phone (one without a power pack) or a fully charged cell phone for emergency calls.
- Make sure you know how to exit your garage if it has a powered opener. Most have a red handle to pull that releases the mechanism so you can raise the door by-hand. Check it in advance.
- Stockpile water and a small supply of nonperishable food.
- Check any emergency generator for proper orientation.
- Have a list of important phone numbers handy (family members, friends, a doctor, etc.). Keep it with your storm kit.
- Make sure you have an adequate supply of medications. If the medications require an electrically-operated device to administer, be sure you have a backup power supply or a mechanical alternative. We cannot ensure when we will be able to restore power so you must take steps to be sure you can administer important medications when needed.
During an outage I had to throw away all the food in my refrigerator. Will the Co-op reimburse me?
Like most utilities, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative does not cover the loss of food during an outage. This applies during any outage when a storm was an act of nature, not a fault of any one person or entity.
Damage or loss from power outages is ordinarily covered under your homeowner's policy if the power outage occurs on your property and is not general and widespread. However, insurance coverage for food loss during power outages can vary among providers. Your reimbursement for loss of food in a power outage depends on your actual coverage. Because so many variables depend on your individual carrier and policy, don't make any assumptions about your power outage coverage. Read your policy carefully to see if food spoilage is specifically excluded within your list of exclusions. If you're still uncertain about whether or not you are covered, contact your insurance agent and ask him or her to explain your protections.