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FirstEnergy's operating companies begin preparing for potential outages long before severe weather hits.
When storms or other severe weather is forecast, we activate formal readiness plans to ensure plenty of service crews are prepared to tackle the damage. Additional linemen, dispatching staff, and other field personnel usually are put on alert, too, ready to be mobilized if needed. We also increase the customer service staff at our contact center to handle a potentially large volume of calls.
Additionally, while employees at FirstEnergy's ten operating companies are more than capable of handling most outages, we have pre-arranged mutual assistance relationships with other neighboring electric utilities to help us restore power more quickly in the most extreme outage situations. They help us, and we help them, as needs arise.
With these preparations in place, dispatchers at our regional Distribution and Transmission Operations Centers monitor weather forecasts from our company meteorologists and the National Weather Service around the clock. They watch for early signs of storms that may damage our lines or equipment, causing outages.
When a customer contacts us to report a power outage, the data enters into our Outage Management System or OMS. This system automatically evaluates the pattern of reported outages and determines the likely location of the trouble. A regional dispatcher then sends a crew to the probable trouble location to determine the extent of the problem and repair it as quickly and safely as possible.
The OMS works best when it receives plenty of information to analyze. Even if a neighbor has already reported power is out, you should report your outage, too. The more reports we receive, the more accurately we can determine the extent of the outage and its cause. We've made it easy to report your outage:
If you see a downed wire, assume it is carrying electricity, keep yourself and others away, and call us immediately at 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877) or call 9-1-1.
Damage assessment process
When major storm events occur, FirstEnergy uses location and prediction information from the OMS, in combination with our Geographic Information System, to identify and prioritize storm-affected locations. In addition to linemen already working to restore outages, we engage personnel to analyze this information and document damage to the electrical system.
This damage information is communicated back to the storm headquarters either by field personnel entering the information into mobile devices, calling in to dispatching personnel, or documenting the information on maps for use by the repair crews later in the restoration event. This damage assessment data is important so that we may effectively manage and deploy resources and provide situational reports to government agencies, community leaders, and media.
Prioritizing restoration activities
Storms may damage a variety of electrical facilities, affecting our customers in different ways. Power may be knocked out to large numbers of residential customers, as well as hospitals, police and fire departments, water pumping stations, schools, or other important public facilities.
When an outage is widespread, restoring power to all affected customers at the same time may not be possible, so our crews follow an established protocol to help ensure public safety while returning customers to service as quickly as possible.
In the aftermath of a storm, an initial priority is to find areas with electrical hazards – such as downed (and potentially energized) wires and related electrical equipment – and make them safe. At such times, linemen focus on isolating these hazards.
The restoration effort generally begins with transmission and substation facilities, since they supply power for local distribution systems. Next, we give priority to hospitals and other critical medical facilities, communications facilities, and emergency response agencies. After that, crews work to restore power as quickly as possible to the rest of our customers, typically addressing outages that restore the largest number of customers before moving to more isolated problems.
Occasionally, customers may wonder why they don't see crews in their area, or why crews drive past their homes instead of stopping to restore their power. Linemen may be en route to address a hazardous situation, to repair the transmission or substation facilities that feed the local network, or to address outages at critical public service facilities. The linemen, tree crews, or other workers you see may also be on their way to make repairs that must be completed before electricity can safely reach your location. Lines may be damaged in multiple locations, or the problem affecting your service could be located at some distance from your immediate community.
After local power lines are repaired and put back in service, damage to individual customer service wires may become apparent. If your neighbor's power is on and yours is not, the problem may be isolated to your individual service. Reporting the outage to us, even if it is later in the restoration process, can help us identify any problems that we may not have been aware of earlier.
Managing tree damage during storm restoration
In a major storm, fallen trees and limbs must be quickly and safely cleared sufficiently for our crews to repair and re-energize damaged lines. This clearing effort represents a significant portion of our work after a storm.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to remove trees or debris from power lines. For safety's sake, stay well clear of downed trees, limbs, or debris that might be in contact with energized lines. Leftover debris can be cleaned up later after repairs have been made and service restored.
For more information, see our Storm Damage and Downed Power Lines page.
Mobilizing additional crews for major storms
Our local service center crews usually handle less-extensive storm damage in their own areas. For larger outages, we can call out employees from our surrounding service centers or bring in crews from other FirstEnergy operating companies. We also may supplement our own crews with personnel from local contractors. In the most severe cases, workers may be requested from neighboring electric companies through mutual assistance relationships.