What happens when the power goes out?
SHARON As Alliant Energy’s manager of customer operations in the southern Walworth County area, I am often asked about electric outages and what process we use to restore power when large, widespread outages occur. In general, our restoration process focuses on returning power to the greatest number of customers as safely, quickly and efficiently as possible.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
Our first step is to be prepared for severe weather. Alliant Energy continually tracks weather conditions so we can identify parts of our service territory that may be affected. This allows us to prepare our employees and vehicles for extended restoration work and to start planning for additional crews who can travel to the area, if needed, to assist with restoration efforts.
Our initial step in these significant events is damage assessment -- finding out how hard our system was hit -- and it is carried out as quickly and as accurately as possible. Damage assessment personnel are dispatched to begin the assessment immediately after impact. This initial assessment helps further develop an estimate of resources needed to complete restoration. In addition, it helps us identify locations of broken poles, downed wires and other incidents that create public safety concerns. Please remember to always stay well clear of these dangers.
As we start the restoration process, we will initially work to repair large transmission lines because they supply electricity to large geographic areas, while also bringing power from power plants to our substations. Next up are substations, because they adjust transmission line voltage to lower levels and must be functioning in order for electricity to get to power lines.
Main distribution lines or primary lines serving large blocks of customers are restored next, followed by local distribution lines serving neighborhoods, because multiple customers are involved. Finally, secondary lines and individual services are restored; these are last because fewer customers are involved, and it often takes more time to get power back on for them. Note that any emergency and public safety-related facilities that are without power are always given the highest customer priority.
Sometimes after a storm, you may notice that your neighbor’s lights come back on while you are still without power. There may be several explanations for this. For example, not all circuits are restored at the same time, and different parts of your neighborhood may be served by different circuits. Or maybe a restored neighbor’s service comes directly from a primary line, which is restored first, while your power service may come off a secondary line.
Lastly, another explanation could be that you may have damage to your weatherhead or meter socket preventing us from re-energizing your service. We will attempt to notify you if this is the case as you will need to contact an electrician to complete these repairs before we can restore your service.
On occasion, when your power is out, you may see an Alliant Energy service crew pass by your home, but they don’t stop. If that happens, it is because work must first be performed at a nearby location before electric service can be restored to you and your neighbors. At the end of the day, following the outage restoration process ensures all consumers have their power restored as quickly and as safely as possible.
Still, the question remains: “When is the power going to be back on?” Though we do our best to provide an answer, weather conditions, accessibility to damaged areas, time of day and the numbers of separate outage events -- which can run in the hundreds with larger storms -- make it challenging for us to predict restoration times. Rest assured that we’re working hard to have you back on as soon as possible. And we appreciate your understanding, patience and cooperation as we work to restore your service as quickly as possible.
You can help us with the restoration process by letting us know if your power goes out. Call 1-800-ALLIANT, dial #255 from any U.S. Cellular phone or visit www.alliantenergy.com from your computer or smart phone. Either of these reporting mechanisms gets outage information to our dispatch center quickly. And that gets our crews rolling to the scene of the outage faster. Don’t assume someone else will report the outage; every response helps us determine the extent and location of the problem.