When a major storm hits, electric cooperative lineworkers stand ready to swing into action to repair power outages, often before the storm is even over.
The goal is always to safely restore power to the greatest number of customers in the shortest time possible. But more is involved than simply throwing a switch or removing a fallen tree from a power line. Peggy Dantzler, vice president of loss control and training for The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Inc., compares restoring power service to getting water to flow from a spigot into and out the end of a water hose. If the spigot isn’t working or if the hose is disconnected or broken, water won’t flow to its destination. “All the pieces have to be connected,” she says.
That means assessing damage and prioritizing repairs, starting with the largest power-distribution lines and working down to the service lines that supply individual members.
High-voltage transmission lines feed power from generation plants to distribution substations. They seldom fail, but they can be damaged by ice storms, tornadoes and hurricanes, preventing other parts of the system from providing power to members. Because each high-voltage transmission line can serve tens of thousands of people, repairs at these sites take top priority.
Substations get power from transmission lines and carry it safely, at a lower voltage, for distribution to communities that serve thousands of consumers. A problem that can be fixed at a substation means thousands of people get their power back all at once.
The distribution lines carry electricity from substations to groups of customers, like neighborhoods. When these lines are repaired, power can be restored to the homes and businesses along those lines. Again, repairs are prioritized by the number of members who can benefit.
When others near you have their power restored, but yours is still out, it may indicate damage to a service line. Service lines deliver power to the transformers—either mounted on poles or placed on pads for underground service—that serve individual businesses, homes and schools. If you still have no power after your neighbors’ lights come back on, contact your co-op, so a service crew can check the service line.
What you can do
- Report outages. Let your co-op know when your power is out. Also, alert the co-op if the loss of electricity affects medical equipment or life-support systems, so that those repairs can be prioritized. Use this link to find contact information for your cooperative.
- Stay safe. Steer clear of downed power lines. Be patient, and let repair crews complete their work.
- Track the progress of repairs online. South Carolina’s not-for-profit electric cooperatives provide real-time updates on their progress through an interactive outage map.
- Call an electrician. If you still don’t have power after the coop has completed all repairs, there may be damage to the consumer’s electric meter base or breaker panel that brings power into your home. The consumer, not the co-op, is responsible for repairs to these service installations. If needed, a qualified electrician can complete this work.
#ThankaLineman – Nobody likes being without electricity following a major storm, including your cooperative’s lineworkers. They are affected by outages, too, and must leave their families behind to restore power for everyone else in the community. Let your co-op’s line crews know how much you respect their service with a message of thanks using #ThankaLineman.
Four steps to restoring power – This video, produced by the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, explains how crews work to repair damage after a major storm.
Geared for safety – When working in the adverse conditions following a storm, your co-op’s line crews rely on their gear to keep them safe. Learn more about their equipment in this short video.