Unitil Corporation, (Unitil.com), a provider of natural gas and electricity to customers in New England, would like to remind customers about the ways to properly report power outages to avoid unnecessary calls to local police departments and 911.
The reminder follows concerns raised by dispatchers at the Exeter Police Department who received numerous calls from people reporting outages while there was no emergency or potential life-safety threat during recent thunderstorms. Some dialed 911 while others called the dispatch center’s business line to file their reports.
“We certainly want customers to let us know when their power goes out to make sure that we’re aware, but it’s important to know when and when not to notify police, fire, and 911. Calling them to simply report that your power is out could tie them up and potentially delay their response to an actual emergency,” said Alec O’Meara, Unitil’s media relations manager.
Unitil asks that 911 be called only in cases where an emergency exists or someone encounters a downed line, in which case they should always stay at least 30 feet away and assume it’s energized, or “live,” because it could threaten public safety.
Customers are urged to call 1-888-301-7700 to report an outage. Reports can also be made online at unitil.com/report-outage.
Exeter Police Chief Stephan Poulin said people should contact police dispatch or 911 when there are downed trees and wires or other life-safety emergencies.
“Our dispatchers are always here to help, but unfortunately, some people think they’ll get their lights back on much faster if they call dispatch. That’s not the case in situations where no emergency or life-safety hazards exist. In those instances, they really need to be contacting their utility provider directly to let them know that their power’s out because there’s little we can do,” Poulin said.
In the event of a power outage, the New Hampshire Division of Emergency Services and Communications, which operates the state’s E-911 system, also urges the public to only dial 911 for emergencies. In addition to reporting downed lines, other examples of a 911 emergency include seeking medical help for a person dependent on equipment that requires electricity or reporting a fire or an injury.
“While we don’t specifically track this information, based on my real-world experience of taking 911 calls during a storm, we get many, many calls from people just wanting to let us know their power is out and asking when it will be back on,” said Division of Emergency Services and Communications Chief of Administration Brandon McGorry.
Unitil uses its social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to provide outage reporting information for its customers along with up-to-date outage maps when problems occur.
For more information on Unitil’s power restoration process, visit unitil.com/outages-emergencies/how-we-restore-your-service#electric.
Additionally, Unitil would also like to remind its gas customers of proper reporting in the event of a gas emergency. If a leak is suspected, they should evacuate the area immediately, and once at a safe distance of at least 300 feet away, they should notify 911 and then contact Unitil at the emergency number for their state listed below:
Maine gas emergencies: 1-866-900-4460
Massachusetts gas emergencies: 1-866-542-3547
New Hampshire gas emergencies: 1-866-900-4115