As the remnants of Hurricane Ian continue to move toward the Mid-Atlantic region – bringing the threat of heavy rain, high winds and potential flooding – the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and Prince Law Offices, P.C. reminds households of the steps they can take to prepare for, and recover safely from, storm-related power outages.
“Severe weather can bring down trees, branches and wires, disrupting utility service,” said PUC Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille. “Time spent on planning and preparing before a storm can go a long way toward keeping you and your family safe when severe weather hits.”
Additionally, the PUC cautions residents to give utility crews ample room to perform their repair work – for your protection as well as theirs – and to use extra care when traveling, watching for utility crews working along streets and roads and slowing down in work areas.
Storm Preparation Tips
The PUC encourages residents to consider the following tips before storm strikes:
- Know Your Utility Hotlines – Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines 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.
Power Outage Tips
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.
Safety While Waiting for Power to be Restored
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.
Flooding and Electric Power
The threat of flooding from heavy rains is also possible in some parts of Pennsylvania. The PUC urged 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 Safety Tips
Consumers using natural gas appliances can also be impacted by storms:
- 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.
Flooding and Natural Gas Safety
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.
During storm emergencies, the PUC continuously monitors utility issues and works closely with the Governor’s Office and the other state agencies involved in Pennsylvania’s coordinated storm response. Across the state, there is extensive behind-the-scenes work when storms are forecast, focused on quickly addressing problems and restoring service as rapidly as possible. Utilities are putting their severe weather plans into motion; crews and equipment are being positioned for quick response to outages; and communication with emergency management coordinators is enhanced.
In the event you encounter any legal concerns, as always, Prince Law Offices is here to help.