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After the Storm: Restoring Power After an Outage

After the Storm: Restoring Power After an Outage

LCEC has 170,000 customers without power. Some areas were hit hard, and it could take weeks to restore. Damage assessment is underway, and restoration estimates are not possible until the full impact is known.

So what happens when the lights go out?
After LCEC restores power to critical community services like hospitals and fire departments, our main goal is to restore power to the greatest number of customers in the shortest amount of time. A detailed plan helps LCEC prioritize what to do, which includes communicating to restoration crews and the public to improve efficiency and maintain public safety. In general, the following steps occur:

  • While the storm was approaching, local repair crews were put on standby and additional resources from out of the area were brought in, so they could respond quickly to problems while it was safe to work. They were ready to begin restoration as soon as the storm passed. Once damage is assessed, utilities have a better idea of restoration times.
  • The first day is for restoring power lines that weren’t badly damaged and for damage assessment to determine a planned, safe, and quick restoration and clear the area of downed power lines so that other services can operate.
  • The first priority is to repair any damage to the transmission system, because these high-voltage lines supply power from a generating plant to one or more distribution substations and serve tens of thousands of customers.
  • Substations (electrical facilities that contain equipment to transform the voltage from transmission levels to distribution levels) are repaired next. These substations are located throughout the LCEC service territory, each serving thousands of customers.
  • Main distribution lines carry power from the substations. Each line may serve thousands of consumers. These lines typically run down major roads, and when the problem is corrected at this stage, those customers served by the distribution line will have power restored.
  • Tap lines are electric feeder lines that run from a main distribution line to transformer poles or underground transformers outside of buildings and throughout neighborhoods. Because these lines serve a few customers, they have lower priority. Even if these lines are not damaged, the customer will still be without power until the main line is repaired.
  • Individual service lines run from the transformer to a building’s meter. If this line is damaged, it may explain why your neighbor has power and you do not. This type of damage has the lowest priority, since the line serves only one customer.

Tips for Customers
There are a variety of things a customer can do to minimize the impact of a power outage before, during, and after the event:

  • Always have a backup generator ready in case of an outage; generators should not be connected to the premise wiring unless the proper isolation equipment is installed.
  • If you see a downed line, stay away from it and call 911 or LCEC immediately. If a power line contacts your car, stay in the vehicle and keep others away. Never drive over downed power lines.
  • Call as soon as you are aware of the outage. Customer calls help repair crews locate damage. Provide the address where the outage occurred and a phone number or account number if requested. In the instance of a widespread outage, there is no need to call because LCEC technology has already identified an outage and it is best to keep the lines open for emergencies.
  • Damage to meters or other facility equipment may require repair before reconnection to the grid.
  • Crews may be working in your area. Slow down and give the line crews plenty of room when you see a utility warning sign. Please do not disrupt their work unless it is urgent. Rest assured they are working as quickly and safely as possible to restore your power.
  • Just because you don’t see crews in your area doesn’t mean we aren’t working. We repair the source first and follow that with downline repairs until your service is restored.

Generator safety

Following are tips to keep you, your family, and utility workers safe while using a generator.

Don’t connect your generator directly to your home’s wiring at the breaker panel or meter. Connecting a portable electric generator directly to your household wiring can be deadly to you and others. A generator that is directly connected to your home’s wiring can ‘back feed’ onto the power lines connected to your home. Utility transformers can then “step-up” or increase this back feed to thousands of volts—enough to kill a utility lineman making outage repairs a long way from your house. You could also cause expensive damage to utility equipment and your generator.

The only safe way to connect a portable electric generator to your existing wiring is to have a licensed electrical contractor install a transfer switch. The transfer switch transfers power from the utility power lines to the power coming from your generator.

Never plug a portable electric generator into a regular household outlet. Plugging a generator into a regular household outlet can energize “dead” power lines and injure neighbors or utility workers. Connect individual appliances that have their outdoor-rated power cords directly to the receptacle outlet of the generator, or connect these cord-connected appliances to the generator with the appropriate outdoor-rated power cord having a sufficient wire gauge to handle the electrical load.

Don’t overload the generator. Do not operate more appliances and equipment than the output rating of the generator. Overloading your generator can seriously damage your valuable appliances and electronics. Prioritize your needs. A portable electric generator should be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.

Never use a generator indoors or in an attached garage. Just like your automobile, a portable generator uses an internal combustion engine that emits deadly carbon monoxide. Be sure to place the generator where exhaust fumes will not enter the house. Only operate it outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain and snow, preferably under a canopy, open shed or carport.

Use the proper power cords. Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage. Don’t use extension cords with exposed wires or worn shielding. Make sure the cords from the generator don’t present a tripping hazard. Don’t run cords under rugs where heat might build up or cord damage may go unnoticed.

Read and adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation. Don’t cut corners when it comes to safety. Carefully read and observe all instructions in your portable electric generator’s owner manual.

To prevent electrical shock, make sure your generator is properly grounded. Consult your manufacturer’s manual for correct grounding procedures.

Do not store fuel indoors or try to refuel a generator while it’s running. Gasoline (and other flammable liquids) should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. They should not be stored in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is in the garage. The vapor from gasoline can travel invisibly along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or electric arcs caused by turning on the lights. Avoid spilling fuel on hot components. Put out all flames or cigarettes when handling gasoline. Always have a fully charged, approved fire extinguisher located near the generator. Never attempt to refuel a portable generator while it’s running.

Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting down your generator.

Avoid getting burned. Many generator parts are hot enough to burn you during operation.

Keep children away from portable electric generators at all times.

LCEC ready for Irma

LCEC has been spending the week gearing up for a potential impact. The wheels are put in motion well in advance of a certain threat in order to appropriate line crews, materials, tree-trimmers, fuel, and support services and supplies. “I am proud of all the preliminary actions that employees are taking to ensure we are ready to respond if Irma impacts our service territory,” said LCEC Chief Executive Officer Dennie Hamilton.

 

Early preparation will pay off for LCEC since customers are located in Collier, Broward, Hendry, Lee, and Charlotte Counties and all will most likely be impacted.

 

LCEC prepares for hurricanes year-round through routine maintenance, vegetation management, and keeping up with the latest technology. Each employee is part of the restoration plan. They begin reviewing the plan in early May, conduct exercises, and update processes with the hopes that they won’t need the plan but confident that if they do, they will be ready.

  • System operators continue to monitor Irma’s track and provide updates to planners.
  • Out-of-town linemen are on the way from Texas, Alabama, and possibly Georgia.
  • Tree-trimming crews are already in the area and conducting last minute trimming.
  • Extra materials were ordered and are onsite and ready to be staged at impacted areas.
  • Vehicles are fueled and ready to go as soon as it is safe to work.
  • Lodging has been secured so that crews can get a few hours of rest between service calls.
  • Meals for nearly 1,000 restoration team members are planned.

Restoration Priorities

LCEC has a detailed restoration plan that outlines priorities of electric restoration during large power outages. LCEC’s plan first calls for restoration of essential services such as hospitals, traffic signals, shelters, law enforcement. Next, power is restored to the largest number of customers. The last to be restored are individual services or services that need to be reconnected after repair to their home electrical system.

LCEC does not disconnect power before a storm. The utility lets mother nature take its course, and begins to restore power to impacted areas once winds are at a safe level.

How customers should prepare for outages

  • Ensure that you have a back-up telephone if you use a cordless or other telephone that is dependent on electricity.
  • Have a battery-powered radio on hand and a supply of fresh batteries to stay aware of news and other information.
  • Keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy.

What to do when the lights go out

  • Help keep LCEC’s telephone lines clear for emergency calls. Only call LCEC at 656-2300 to report downed power lines.
  • Visually check your weather-head (on the roof where your service drop connects to the pole) and your meter box to make sure it is not damaged.
  • Any damage to your home’s electric system must be repaired by a licensed electrician and inspected by a designated agency before power to your home can be restored.
  • Turn off your appliances. This will protect them when service is restored, prevent electrical fires and lessen the chances of circuit overload when service is restored. You may leave one light on to serve as a visual signal that power has been restored.

Storm Safety Tips

  • Stay clear of downed power lines. They may still be energized and dangerous. Puddles of water contacting downed lines are just as dangerous.
  • Don’t trim trees or remove debris located near downed power lines. If you must remove debris from your home, don’t pile it under or near electrical lines or equipment.
  • Residents on life support need to have an alternate plan in place to ensure the continuity of any life-support needs. This may include making special arrangements to spend time with a friend or relative during an outage or using a back-up generator.
  • If operating a portable generator, keep it outside and in an open area. Carbon monoxide emissions can be harmful. Follow all instructions regarding safe operation. Do not connect the generator directly to your main electrical panel. If installed incorrectly, power could flow into outside lines and injure you, your neighbors or utility crews working in the area.
  • Avoid detaining LCEC employees while they are working to restore power. This can be distracting and cause an accident.

 

Use caution with portable generators

Many Southwest Florida residents use portable electric generators to power their homes during electrical outages. While generators are a convenience, they can be dangerous if used improperly.

The safest way to operate a generator is to plug appliances directly into the generator. However, customers who are utilizing a back-up generator to provide electricity to their entire home must use a double throw switch to disconnect their electric service equipment from the LCEC system. This is necessary to prevent a dangerous back feed of energy into LCEC lines and equipment, which creates a hazard to residents, electrical equipment and unsuspecting line crews working to restore power in the area. If an automatic transfer system is proposed for this transfer function, the specific system must have been approved by LCEC before it used.

Before you buy and install a generator, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Determine how much electricity you need for your home. You want to be sure to buy the right size generator.
  • As a safety precaution, consult with an electrician before you hook up your generator.
  • Be sure when you start your generator, that you place it outside where the fumes can escape without harming anyone.

LCEC Prepared for Hurricane Irma

LCEC’s preparation began long before Hurricane Irma threatened to make landfall in Southwest Florida. To ensure LCEC has the resources needed for restoration, the utility relies on relationships that have been cultivated over the years with power line and tree-trimming contractors, fuel companies, material vendors, food service vendors, other cooperatives and local agencies. Out-of-town crews will begin to arrive throughout the day tomorrow.

In addition, more than 375 LCEC employees play a critical role in the restoration plan. Employees put their typical job responsibilities on hold to pitch in during restoration. Employees focus on coordinating out-of-town crews, delivery of materials, damage assessment, and restoration. Other employees become food and water delivery experts for crews who often don’t have time to stop and grab a bite to eat. Some employees even organize laundry service so that crews working days on end to restore power in some of the most treacherous areas of Southwest Florida have clean clothes to wear.

Restoration Priorities LCEC has a detailed restoration plan that outlines priorities of electric restoration during large power outages. LCEC’s plan first calls for restoration of essential services such as hospitals, traffic signals, shelters, law enforcement. Next, power is restored to the largest number of customers. The last to be restored are individual services or services that need to be reconnected after repair to the home electrical system.

LCEC does not disconnect power before a storm. Mother Nature runs her course to knock power out, and LCEC begins to restore power to impacted areas once winds are at a safe level.

What to do when the lights go out • Help keep LCEC telephone lines clear for emergency calls. Only call LCEC at 656-2300 to report downed power lines. • Visually check the weather-head (on the roof where your service drop connects to the pole) and the meter box to make sure it is not damaged. • Any damage to the home or business electric system must be repaired by a licensed electrician and inspected by a designated agency before power can be restored. • Turn off appliances. This will protect them when service is restored, prevent electrical fires and lessen the chances of circuit overload when service is restored. You may leave one light on to serve as a visual signal that power has been restored.

Storm Safety Tips • Stay clear of downed power lines. They may still be energized and dangerous. Puddles of water contacting downed lines are just as dangerous. • Don’t trim trees or remove debris located near downed power lines. If you must remove debris, don’t pile it under or near electrical lines or equipment. • Residents on life support need to have an alternate plan in place to ensure the continuity of any life-support needs. This may include making special arrangements to spend time with a friend or relative during an outage or using a back-up generator. • If operating a portable generator, keep it outside and in an open area. Carbon monoxide emissions can be harmful. Follow all instructions regarding safe operation. Do not connect the generator directly to your main electrical panel. If installed incorrectly, power could flow into outside lines and injure you, your neighbors or utility crews working in the area. • Avoid detaining LCEC employees or contractors while they are working to restore power. This can be distracting, can cause an accident and impedes the process.

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