Power outages: what you need to know
When power outages occur, you can count on Westar to begin power restoration as safely and quickly as possible.
Safety is first and foremost after severe weather happens. Most injuries take place when the storm is over and people go outside to check on homes.
Power line safety
- Assume that all downed power lines are live. Report downed lines to 911 and then 1-800-LIGHT KS (544-4857).
- No person should come within 10 feet of a power line. If a branch or other object is in contact with a power line, do not attempt to remove it.
- Be aware of downed lines that may be covered up by debris or downed trees.
- Be careful with electric tools and stay clear of damp ground and standing puddles.
- If you see someone touching a downed line, don't try to rescue them. You could become a victim yourself.
- If a power line falls on your car while you're in it, stay in your car and wait for help. You are safe as long as you remain inside.
- If you must exit the car, jump. Be careful not to touch the car and ground at the same time.
How Westar crews restore service
The more reports from an area we receive, the better we're able to identify where the outage cause is located.
Westar's goal is to restore power to the largest number of customers as safely and quickly as possible.
- As outage reports are received, troubleshooters and sometimes damage assessment crews are sent to investigate and report back the outage cause. This is why you may see a Westar truck come into and leave your neighborhood without power being restored. Using this information, work is prioritized. If damage assessment vehicles are deployed, they will be marked by an orange door panel showing "DAMAGE ASSESSMENT."
- Before work begins, crews make sure work will be performed in safe conditions.
- Crews then repair or replace equipment as needed, removing all hazards, such as tree limbs or other objects that are touching lines.
- Many times, tree trimming crews must remove trees or tree limbs before power can be restored. Because restoring customers' power during an outage is our first priority, tree limbs and debris are left onsite for the tree's owner to remove.
- Following major storm damage, often times, it's a matter of completely rebuilding parts of the electrical system to restore service. These repairs take coordination and many hours to complete.
Power restoration begins by repairing the largest equipment that supplies power to the most customers. The following priorities are specific to major restoration efforts. Many of the processes happen at the same time by different, specialized crews.
- Priority is given to public safety situations such as de-energizing downed lines and critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations and water treatment plants.
- Transmission lines and distribution substations are repaired first. These lines carry power from generating plants to a large number of customers that cover a wide service area.
- Major feeder lines that support large subdivisions, industries and businesses.
- Primary and secondary lines that deliver electricity to smaller neighborhoods and businesses.
- Transformers and service lines that serve small groups of customers and single services.
Outside customer responsibilities
If you have overhead electric service, it is common for a tree branch to come down and pull the meter can away from your home/business during a storm. If the meter can has been damaged or pulled away from your home, it must be reattached by a licensed electrician before Westar can restore service.
Generators are often used during an extended outage situation. If not used correctly, generators can cause shock, fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep in mind the following safety practices:
- Never connect generators to your home's electrical panel or plug directly into a wall outlet. Generators should connect to essential appliances such as freezers and refrigerators.
- If you connect a generator to house wiring, the correct way is to have a certified electrician install a power transfer switch.
- Follow manufacturer's instructions for operation.
- Never use a portable generator indoors. This includes partially-enclosed areas such as a garage.
- Place the generator away from windows or doors that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors
- Don't overload your generator.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain cold.
- The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
- Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.
- Never taste food to determine its safety!
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer or refrigerator after the power is out.
- Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately - this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
- Group food together in the freezer - this helps the food stay cold longer.
- Know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
- If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40 degrees or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
- Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred.
- Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
- Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
- When in Doubt, Throw it Out!