Common Outage Questions
Below is information on the most common questions regarding the causes of outages, reporting an outage, and steps you can take at home to be prepared.
- High winds blowing trees and branches onto power lines.
- Vehicles striking and breaking utility poles.
- High winds breaking utility poles.
- High winds blowing lines into trees.
- Cold-load pick-up problems.
- Animals climbing poles and contacting both pole and the power line.
- Snow and ice build-up that causes power lines to break or touch tree branches.
- Overloaded lines.
- Problems at substations.
- Call your BRMEMC office. The phone number can be found in your telephone book, on the top left of your monthly billing statement, or call toll free (800) 292-6456. Give the office personnel your name and address. If you have a bill stub, give them your account number. If you cannot get through, please be patient and remember that many other members may be calling to report the outage. We value your phone calls because they allow us to track the size and severity of the outage.
- Report a power outage online using the account number or the phone number associated with the account.
- Use the Outage Texting Service to report an outage by text message. For more information on the Outage Texting Service click here.
- BRMEMEC has installed technology including remote-read meters and other down-line equipment connected to the electric grid that assists our dispatchers in outage notification, often before our members become aware of such outages. That said, BRMEMC requests that you notify the EMC whenever a power outage occurs, as service interruptions may be isolated to a single location. BRMEMC offers a number of ways to report outages, including direct phone calls to the EMC, automated telephone reporting, and outage reporting via the BRMEMC website.
- Once an outage has been reported, BRMEMC’s employees immediately begin to respond, setting in motion a well-proven process for restoration and repair. Crews are dispatched from our main office, and are provided as much detail about the scope of the outage and other information as is available at that time. Once in the field, our crews perform damage assessments, isolate the line with safety devices, remove any line encroachments (like fallen trees), perform necessary repairs, and reinitiate service. This work takes time, especially during severe weather like ice storms, blizzards, thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. In these situations, some power outages may not be restored for several days, so it is helpful if members call and report continuing outages once each morning.
- Finally, it is important to note that members should not call the EMC multiple times each day for “status updates”, estimated times for repair, or to restate the importance of getting power back on for a specific person or group of people. This kind of “over-communication” makes it difficult for other members attempting to report new outages or emergencies. BRMEMC does not get the kilowatt-hour sales it needs unless electric meters are functioning, so we make every effort to restore power as quickly and efficiently as possible to every member.
In many cases, BRMEMC’s members will have been made aware of impending severe weather leading to extended outages that can take several days to repair. Snowstorms, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, ice storms, hurricanes and strong winds can all create multi-day outage situations that challenge BRMEMC’s ability to restore power quickly. If power goes out during these extended outage events, members should:
- Turn off electric heating /cooling systems depending on season (if possible).
- Turn off all appliances and most lights, leaving one light on to signal the restoration of power.
- Open refrigerators and freezers only as needed.
- Report all electric system damage in your community. If you cannot immediately get through to BRMEMC, it will likely be because others in your area are calling to report damage. Be patient yet persistent, remembering that during extended events, there are often several thousand members calling at the same time, and BRMEMC does not have thousands of employees or telephone lines to handle this volume all at once.
- Listen to local radio stations for updates. BRMEMC also uses its Facebook page and website to communicate outage updates whenever possible.
- If the weather is extremely cold or extremely hot, seek alternate shelter, if possible.
- After power has been restored, turn on heating/cooling system and appliances one-by-one over a period of time to minimize strain on the electric system and to prevent cold-load pick-up problems (see Power Outage FAQ on cold-load pick-up for more detail).
Note: For those Members that have completed the Medical Necessity Exemption form, please be advised that this form does not ensure outage restoration prioritization. In the event of a large-scale, multiple day outage, those Members are advised to seek alternate arrangements to ensure their health is not compromised as a result of a sustained loss of power.
Cold-load pick-up problems occur during severe cold or hot weather when BRMEMC tries to restore power. When power is disrupted in the winter, many families leave their heating systems and appliances on. When power is restored, those heating systems cause a huge drain on the power lines and can cause line protection equipment to take the overloaded lines off line because the heavy load acts the same as a fault on the line. Cold-load pick-up problems also occur in the summer when families and businesses are running air-conditioning units and heat pumps. Cold-load pick-up problems are prevented when members turn off their electric heating or air-conditioning systems, lights and appliances and then, after power has been restored, turn them back on over a period of time
Your neighbor's home may be on a different line. For example, a three-phase line may run right in front of your home, but you may receive power through a single-phase line running through your backyard. Also, the problem may be on the wire between the pole and your home or, your phase of a three-phase line may be out while the other two are still operating.
Outage causes are varied and can often be unique. The most frequent causes of outages in our area are storms, trees, wildlife (animals contacting lines), and public-related (cars hitting poles, digging up underground power lines, etc.). Equipment failure also contributes to outages. The duration of each outage is directly dependent upon the factors involved with the particular outage cause. Very obviously, the more severe the damage to the electric infrastructure, the longer duration the outage will be. Similarly, outage durations can be extended due to severe weather events, total numbers of outages across the entire BRMEMC system, and other factors. BRMEMC does not get the kilowatt-hour sales it needs to support its system unless electric meters are functioning, so our employees make every effort to restore power as quickly and efficiently as possible to every member. When the power goes off, you can rest assured that BRMEMC is committed to getting every outage back on in a safe and timely manner.
BRMEMC power restoration procedures are very simple. We try to restore power to as many families as possible as quickly as possible. Below are the steps BRMEMC takes to restore power.
- Restore power to substations.
- Repair main feeder lines.
- Repair three-phase lines in built-up rural areas.
- Repair rural three-phase lines.
- After three-phase lines have been repaired, repair single-phase lines.
- Individual services and transformers are the last to be repaired.
- Weather heads and meter bases torn from the dwelling by falling trees or ice are the responsibility of the homeowner.
- Pre-position employees and materials in any area expected to be hit hard by severe weather.
- Call in outside help from other rural electric cooperatives.
- Hire additional contract line and tree-trimming crews.
- Work long hours every day and night until power is restored.
- Use local media to update members as to our progress.
No! It is impossible to tell just by looking at them if power lines are energized. Live trees are excellent conductors of electricity, as are metal chain saw blades and bars. If BRMEMC reports that power is out in your area, be aware that neighbors incorrectly using electric generators could be sending electricity into the lines.
- Portable generators, especially generators designed for home use, are usually not powerful enough to run your whole home. Practically speaking, only necessary appliances such as the refrigerator, freezer or a space heater should be plugged into a portable generator. You should never plug your portable generator into your home's outlets. A portable generator connected to your home's wiring systems must have a device installed (such as a double pole switch or an automatic generator transfer switch) that disconnects the generator and your home from BRMEMC's power system when in use. In most cases, this switch must be installed by a licensed electrician and must be inspected by the state or county electrical inspector. Failure to properly wire a generator can endanger utility workers and the general public, and could subject the connecting party to liability and prosecution. Some new technologies allow for easier installation in coordination with the electric utility provider, but BRMEMC does not yet offer this service.
- Standby generators (including farm and commercial), defined as back-up electrical systems that operate automatically during utility outages, are often used to provide whole-home, business or industrial backup power. Remember that, like portable generators, improper standby generator hookup can create serious problems both with regard to safety, and the proper operation of the generator. It is imperative that the electric service connected to your home or business have a double-throw switch or automatic generator transfer switch (or similar device approved by your state or county) to isolate the standby generator from the EMC's power system when in use. If it is not isolated, voltage from the generator can back-feed onto the EMC's lines where it endangers the lives of our line workers, other employees, and the general public. Liability and even prosecution for death or injury as a result of improper generator connection can be accrued to the connecting party. In order to ensure proper installation, standby generators should only be connected by a licensed electrician, and must be inspected by the state or county electrical inspector. Again, never connect a generator directly to an electrical panel or directly to any electrical circuit in your home!