5:00 p.m. – Friday, January 10, 2020 –
Weather, animals, and trees, all share the blame
Most often, power outages are caused by factors beyond our control.
In the summer months, power outages are often caused by animals such as birds and squirrels coming in contact with our equipment, especially in the early morning hours.
In the winter months, power outages are really all about the weather. Snow storms, ice storms, and wind storms can all cause trees to fall on our power lines or cause the wires themselves to be knocked down.
Our vegetation management team routinely inspects vegetation growing near power lines to identify potential hazards, then either prunes or removes any hazardous trees. Unfortunately, they can’t get them all.
Since 2013, a major effort has been underway to rebuild old sections of our electric infrastructure that had reached the end of their usable life, as well as sections that were frequently causing trouble. The rebuild projects are part of the co-op’s long-term strategy to provide reliable power, keep operational costs down, and ensure steady rates for many years to come.
If you come across a fallen or damaged power line, keep a safe distance — at least the length of a city bus.
Another common cause of power outages, that can happen at any time of the year, is motor vehicle accidents that damage power poles. Power may go out immediately due to the impact of the vehicle, or crews may need to disconnect power when they arrive on site to make the area safe and facilitate repairs. Because electricity can travel through vehicles, an accident involving our equipment can be extremely dangerous, so please keep your distance.
Outage reported, crews dispatched
There are a variety of ways that we’re alerted to an outage on our system. Members can report their power is out either by calling 1-800-279-SIEA (7432) or by reporting the outage with SmartHub, the co-op’s account management app. It’s always helpful to have members provide additional information about an outage whenever possible. For example, if a member can tell us a tree is on the line outside their house, then we know what type of crew we need to dispatch.
Our meters also provide automated alerts and alarms that notify us when there is an outage. Meter outage notifications are best used for individual or smaller scale outages. In large events, information from meter data is used to help determine how widespread the outage is.
Smart meters aid in restoration effort
Smart meters add a new level of efficiency that we didn’t have before.
Previously, we would have sent a crew out to investigate an outage that can now be investigated remotely by checking the meter. Sometimes the outage isn’t actually on the electricity system but rather within a member’s home, such as a blown fuse or tripped breaker.
Smart meters also allow us to remotely confirm when the power has been restored so crews can focus their attention on other trouble calls. This is especially helpful when there are multiple outages and incidents occurring at the same time.
Estimating restoration times isn’t an exact science
When your power goes out, you want to know when you can expect to have it back on. Our mobile-friendly website, siea.com, provides outage maps as well as updates every two hours, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. as soon as we know of the outage.
Restoration times can and will change. That is why we do not provide estimated restoration times. A seemingly simple repair job, such as plugging in a new fuse to a transformer, can become a more complex repair job if that fuse goes too, indicating that there’s something more going on.
Once an outage is determined to be affecting more than 100 meters, we post outage status updates at siea.com every two hours until power is restored, to keep you informed about how work is progressing.
The co-op only posts outage information on their Facebook page when more than 2,000 meters are affected, or if the outage is anticipated to be longer than four hours.
Members can sign up for text and email outage alerts, notifying them when there is an outage in their area and when the outage is restored. Currently, the notifications go to members in the area of the outage. So, some members may receive a notification about a power outage in their area, even though their meter is not affected.
In addition to the outage notifications, members can find out if the co-op is aware of their outage by checking the outage map, which is available through the SmartHub app and at siea.com.
Prioritizing work during larger storm events
Our number one priority is always public safety. So, in a large-scale outage with extensive damage, we first focus our attention on the largest areas without power.
We also consult with the emergency managers experiencing concern about hazardous conditions related to power outages for their help in determining priority areas for restoration. This would include lines that provide power to hospitals, schools, fire and water systems.
Be prepared if the lights go out
Power outages can be an inconvenience for you and your family, especially when so much of our daily lives rely on having fully-juiced electronics and Wi-Fi access. We invest in and regularly maintain our system to continuously improve reliability for our 24,000 meters. However, power outages are inevitable and it’s important to be prepared for when they do happen.
As a not-for-profit cooperative utility, San Isabel Electric provides affordable, reliable electricity with exceptional service to communities throughout southern Colorado. Serving nearly 20,000 member-owners and 24,000 meters, San Isabel Electric has been keeping the lights on since 1938. We don’t just serve communities. We are part of communities.