Outage FAQ

Q. How does Black River manage calls during a widespread power outage?
A. During widespread outage situations, Black River employees will take calls in the main office.

Q. Does Black River know I have lost electric service after a storm?
A. Immediately after a storm, Black River is aware of damage to distribution circuits, power lines and substations. However, to ensure we are also aware of your outage, please call the cooperative anytime your power is out at 469-8060. Please do not assume that others have reported the outage. By calling when you experience an outage, you help our crews respond more efficiently and restore your service more quickly.

Please have the following information available when you call: account number or the name on the account, service address, home phone and, if you know it, damage to any of our poles or wires near your home.

Q. What can I do to help get my power back on?
A. Once the power goes out, it’s important to turn off every unneeded electrical item. Every item requiring electricity puts a strain on the system. The less initial electric demand on the system, generally the quicker power can be fully restored. If the initial demand is too great, the system will overload and the power will go off again. There are two exceptions. A light inside the house should be left on to signal when power has been restored and the porch light should be switched on so cooperative line personnel can tell which homes have their electricity back.

Once power is restored, check your home’s breaker panel (and any outdoor disconnects) to make sure they have not tripped. Then gradually turn back on lights, air conditioners, heaters and other electrical appliances, say over 15 minutes, to ease the demand on the system.

Q. How is power restored and how are priorities set?
A. Our goal is to restore service to as many consumers as rapidly and safely as possible. As a rule of thumb, power is usually restored in this order: transmission circuits, substations, distribution lines and individual structures.

We give special consideration to public safety facilities such a hospitals, nursing homes, fire departments, emergency shelters, water and sewage systems.

Black River Electric also maintains a list of members dependent on life support medical systems. Members on this “Special Needs” list are strongly encouraged to seek shelter in an emergency facility or travel to an area where storm damage is less likely to occur. There is no guarantee that electric service will not be interrupted in the event of a storm, so emergency plans should be made well in advance. Personal preparations are the full responsibility of the individual.

Q. Are Black River Electric’s employees directly involved in power restoration?
A. All of Black River Electric’s employees are involved, in one way or another, in the restoration process. The most visible are the linemen, who are the individuals trained in the construction and maintenance of power lines.

In addition, we may have crews from sister cooperatives in South Carolina and all across the country who can come in and assist. Contract crews may also be called in to help with the restoration process.

All of our employees are on standby to provide assistance as quickly as possible after the storm. Being on alert and prepared enables us to instantly get to work once the high winds or inclement weather subsides.

Q. Will the electric cooperative shut off the power manually during the storm, or will the system shut itself down? What can we expect?
A. No, the cooperative doesn’t plan to turn off power manually during a storm. However, the cooperative might re-set the mechanical process to shut itself down when weather conditions are unfavorable, particularly in high winds.

However, please consider any fallen wires to be energized, regardless of whether or not they appear to be safe. Report the fallen power lines to the cooperative at 469-8060 or call 911 immediately. Make sure your children, pets and neighbors stay away from the power lines and any objects they may be touching.

Q. After a storm, how quickly do you send crews out to begin restoration?
A. That’s determined by the intensity of the storm. Crew safety is a major consideration. As soon as it’s safe, the power restoration begins. It may be necessary for some employees to spend a short time initially doing damage assessment. We need to get an early idea of how much damage the storm as caused. Knowing this will allow us to request the number and types of crews and materials we will need to restore power as quickly as possible. In some cases crews and supplies are staged ahead of time close to the predicted storm damage so damage assessment and restoration can begin as soon as safely possible.

Q. Why would a Black River service crew pass by without restoring the power at my house?
A. If you see a Black River service crew passing but not stopping, it is because work must first be performed at a nearby location before electric service can be restored to you and your neighbors. Following the outage restoration process ensures all members have their power restored as quickly and safely as possible.

Q. Why does my neighbor have power and I do not?
A. It depends upon the cause of the outage. Remember to check and make sure your power is not out because of an electrical problem inside your home, such as a tripped breaker. If your neighbor has electricity and you do not, more than likely, they receive their electricity from a different power line or are located on a different circuit than the circuit your home is on.

Q. Why can’t you tell me how long it will take to restore my power?
A. Each outage is a result of different circumstances, and some may take longer to identify and restore than others. As a result, during storm-related outages restoration information may not be immediately available.

Q. What should I do if a power line falls in my yard?
A. Consider all fallen wires to be energized, regardless of whether or not they appear to be safe. Report the fallen power line to the cooperative at 469-8060 or call 911 immediately. Make sure your children, pets and neighbors stay away from the power line and any objects it may be touching.

Q. How should I prepare for outages?
A. Black River suggests creating an outage preparation kit that includes a portable radio, batteries, corded phone and a flashlight. Store this kit in a designated place so it is easy to find.

Q. What are some safety precautions for consumers?
A. Some Safety precautions are:

  • If you see a downed power line, STAY AWAY!! And call the cooperative immediately at 469-8060 or call 911.
  • Leave your porch light on so line personnel will know when your power has been restored.
  • Turn off all unnecessary appliances to prevent further drain on the utility’s electric systems.
  • Stay away from fallen power lines. Assume that any line is conducting electricity.
  • People should always stay away from downed or sagging power lines. All downed power lines should be treated as if they were energized and potentially deadly. If you see a downed line, stay away and call the cooperative or 911.
  • Generator safety: Under no circumstances, should gas-powered generators be use indoors or in attached garages. Burning charcoal grills and portable generators create carbon monoxide, so should only be used outdoors. You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide. Opening a window or using a fan does not help. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can cause death.

If you use a portable generator to supply electricity during a power outage, be safe and know the facts. If generators are used improperly, they can kill you and the people who are restoring power to your building or home. Connecting a generator to the main electrical supply for your house requires the services of a qualified, licensed electrician. If you use a standby generator during a power outage, contact the cooperative.

Q. How do I protect appliances in my house?
A. A lighting strike can send a surge of electricity through your home, potentially damaging appliances. Computers, TV’s and other electronic equipment are expensive investments that are worthy of protecting from storm-related damage. Surge protectors provide a defense against power spikes and surges.

Q. If the power goes out, do I need to throw out all the food in my refrigerator and freezer?
A. To minimize the loss of food during a power outage, limit the number of times you open your refrigerator or freezer door. Try to resist the urge to look inside and check on the items in the refrigerator/freezer. If the doors remain closed, refrigerated food can remain safely cold for about four hours; frozen food can remain safe for two days if the freezer is full and the doors remain closed. If you have a picnic cooler, and time to make ice in your own refrigerator, fill the cooler before the storm hits. Learn more about food safety in a power outage by viewing the American Red Cross’s Food Safety web page.

Q. Is a generator safe to use when I lose power?
A. A generator can be a wonderful tool during an outage, especially in helping keep the frozen food in your refrigerator cool. But, it can also be extremely dangerous if used improperly. Please follow these safety tips when using a generator. Generator Safety

Q. The electrical service line from the pole to my house appears to be pulled away from the house. What should I do?
A. Typically, piping that contains wires attached to the side of your home or business is considered part of the house wiring and can only be worked on by a licensed electrician. However, by calling Black River Electric Cooperative at 469-8060, we will inspect service lines and will determine if an electrician is required to fix the damage or if Black River Electric can make the repairs.

Q. What is a supplier or transmission related outage?
A. Some situations can arise causing Black River to lose service from the supplier of its electricity. When this occurs in your area, Black River members lose service because the electricity supplied to the cooperative’s lines is interrupted at its source. Although not a direct result of damage to Black River’s lines, this situation still causes an outage.

Q. What preventive measures do you take to minimize outages?
A. Preventative maintenance is the best tool against outages. In addition to ensuring the lines, poles and transformers are in top-notch condition; Black River Electric Cooperative employs an aggressive tree trimming and right-of-way clearing program. After a storm, downed trees and branches are usually the primary cause of outages. Keeping the power lines right-of-ways clear reduces the chances of tree-related outages.

Q. How does wind affect an electric cooperative system?
A. Very rarely does wind alone affect an electric system. Our electric systems are built to easily withstand 65+ MPH winds. If you took an average electric system and put it out in the middle of a field, the winds would blow right by it and not affect the electric system. It’s the trees and other things which are affected by the winds that bring down electric systems.

Q. Why are my electric motors or machines running backward?
A. Turn off machinery immediately and call Black River Electric Cooperative at 469-8060. A technician will determine whether electric power phases are connected properly.

Q. How will Black River Electric restore streetlights, traffic signals, and yard lights?
A. Traffic signals will be prioritized at the request of the city or county that owns or maintains them. City or county workers may need to repair or replace damaged traffic signals and streetlights they own before Black River Electric Cooperative can re-energize lines that power them. Residential street and yard lights will be repaired or replaced after all other restoration efforts have been completed. Please help us identify street and yard lights that are out by calling us at 469-8060.