Dark clouds form on the horizon…winds whip up, thunder rumbles, and soon the first jagged forks of lightning pierce the sky. Summer heat can lead to thunderstorms and their lightning strikes and high winds can cause power outages. When trees are fully leafed there is greater wind resistance so high winds can cause branches to break and trees to fall -- sometimes on power lines. While no one can control the weather, you can be prepared for power outages.
What You Can Do
Following these easy steps can help ensure your family’s safety and comfort during a summer power outage:
- Cordless phones don’t work when the power goes out. Keep a corded or cell phone for use during power outages.
- Automatic garage doors won’t work during a power outage either. Read your manual to learn how to release the door if the power goes out.
- If you rely on a well pump for drinking water, plan ahead for where you’ll get your water when the power is out.
- Never store water in metal containers. Use glass or plastic containers and boil the water if possible.
- Before the storm, backup and store your data, then unplug your computer.
- If a family member uses electrically-powered life support, call us now so we can include that information on your account. You can also fill out our forms online here. You should also ask your physician about emergency backup systems.
- If you plan to use an emergency generator, call our Customer Service Center to let us know. A double-throw transfer switch is required when connecting a generator to your permanent wiring system. This switch protects your equipment and prevents feedback on our lines, which could cause serious injury to our workers. Before you use the generator, its installation must be inspected and documented by a qualified electrician or local inspector. For safe installation procedures, click here.
Have a Storm Kit Ready
A storm kit should contain key items that will be essential during a power outage. Keep your family’s storm kit easily accessible and label it. The following items should go in one easy-to-grab plastic box:
- Battery-powered radio
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Canned food, dried foods, and a non-electric can opener
- First aid supplies and any essential medicines
- Bottled water
- Candles and matches
- A wind-up or battery-powered clock
- Also remember to gather camping equipment, such as sleeping bags and a portable lamp or lantern. Remember; never use a kerosene lantern inside, as it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers to keep near the phone, including Unitil’s toll-free number. Call us at 888-301-7700 800-852-3339 (Capital-area) or 800-582-7276 (Seacoast-area) to report outages and downed wires.
Be sure to stay away from any downed power lines that you may encounter on or near your property after a storm. No power line is safe and you should consider any downed line "live" and wait for a Unitil crew to arrive to clear the area and fix the issue. Click here for more safety tips on downed power lines.
Keeping Your Lights On
When storms are forecast, Unitil’s Operations Center monitors the weather for the latest updates and puts line crews on standby. The minute an outage is reported, our response teams spring into action with line crews dispatched within minutes to work on restoring electricity. Our Call Center’s phone lines have been expanded to the point where we can retrieve 85 percent of calls in fewer than 20 seconds. In addition, our automated phone system allows us to field over 100 outage calls at the same time. In the field, our damage assessment teams provide detailed information efficiently and swiftly, allowing us to produce accurate estimates of when power will be restored. We periodically provide outage updates via Twitter and Facebook.
At Unitil, we’re thinking about storms all the time. A key part of our efforts is to prevent power outages from happening in the first place. We maintain nearly 1,900 miles of power lines and utility poles throughout our service territories. Consequently, our crews are in the communities we serve every day. They check and maintain our distribution systems to make sure everything is in good working order. We also stay on top of the latest technology to ensure a reliable power supply and upgrade our equipment regularly. In addition, our distribution system has safeguards that you don’t see, such as backup systems which help us reroute power even if one system fails.
With so many miles of power lines, our tree trimming program runs year-round. A major part of ensuring a reliable power supply is keeping trees and vegetation trimmed away from power lines. Branches rubbing against power lines, or storms bringing down limbs and trees cause up to 90% of power outages. Careful cutting of selected limbs helps prevent storm trouble. Our tree pruning practices have been thoroughly reviewed to make sure we fully meet industry standards throughout our service territory. View our vegetation management policies here.