If you are affected by an isolated outage, a decent electric company should have the problem solved in short order with exceptions here and there. But when severe weather strikes tens of thousands may lose service. This can take days upon days to resolve. A few days without electricity at home leaves many wondering why they must wait so long. After eight years working at an electric company I can tell you.
In a crisis, your home is low on the list. – After a major storm or anything causing catastrophic damage to our grid the first repairs go to substations and major transmission lines; no one is getting power without these up. High priority goes to hospitals, police and fire departments where lives are at stake. Commercial areas are on main distribution lines more so than residential locales, and thus are revived faster. This is good as lost revenue and resources (paychecks, groceries, etc.) hurts everyone. After all that come remaining residential facilities. For a visual see this infographic from Duke Energy
You aren’t special. – After the power is out, telling us your baby is on a breathing machine, grandma’s medicine needs refrigeration, your $5000 koi fish will die (all calls I’ve taken) or whatever is a waste of time. Even if a phone representative believes you, they can’t change their company’s order of operations for you. If you have a delicate situation you should A) Have a contingency plan for an extended outage. B) Ask your provider to be put on a critical care list before trouble brews. C) Understand there’s no telling how long your service will be off. If someone’s in real danger call 911.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. – For efficiency’s sake, outages are prioritized by how many people they affect. All companies I know of work this way, Tampa Electric states it nicely on their web page here. If we tell you your outage includes five people and the state just got slammed by a hurricane get ready to wait a while. Sorry, but somebody’s got to be last.
Outage repair estimates are estimates. An estimate is an educated guess based off all available information at the time. If more outages pop up or we find something unexpected, the original time we gave you may be pushed back. The surveyors and engineers making projections are trained, not clairvoyant.
We can’t go any faster. – During disaster relief efforts I work shifts up to 16 hours long. Linemen might work longer. In a crisis we also call in contractors and technicians from other companies. To deal with widespread power failures more rapidly we’d need more full-time field employees. Know how we’d pay them? We would raise rates. Want to pay more monthly? Didn’t think so.
We won’t pay for spoiled food. – Unless we caused the problem, why should we? That’s what insurance is for. No utility can guarantee uninterrupted service 365 days a year. Get protection or accept the consequences.
We want you back on too. – Generally speaking, the more power people use, the more money we make. The same holds true in reverse!
First Energy Frequently Asked Outage Questions