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September is National Preparedness Month

image credit: Photo 68438943 © Petar Dojkic | Dreamstime.com

Yesterday was a holiday, Labor Day no less, which means I’m wasn't expecting offices and services to be in full operation.  But then the power went out.  I’m not in Northern California or Southern Africa so I wasn’t expecting or warned about any planned outages.  Fortunately, Xcel Energy has an automated system you can call (if you already have the number because without power some lose the ability to Google their local utility company’s phone number and the ease of logging on to the website).  Xcel’s system, like most utilities, allows customers to report an outage, subscribe to alerts, get updates on cause, progress and restoration.  Subsequently, September is National Preparedness Month.  National Preparedness Month (NPM) began after 9/11 and is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year.  How are utilities participating? Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company are both observing NPM by upgrading transmission lines, poles and conducting tree clearance around system equipment.  To help customers with faster service restoration, the utilities are also installing automated restoration equipment along power lines and centralizing grid operations.  This automated equipment has prevented more than 150,000 service interruptions and saved nearly 29 million minutes when customers would have been without power.  How can you assist customers during unexpected events or planned power outages?

Homeland Security’s ready.gov has four steps to help communities prepare for the unexpected.  (1) Make a plan.  (2) Build a kit. (3) Prepare for disasters.  (4) Teach youth about preparedness.  Knowing which disaster your community might face depends on your area but under preparing for power outages, reminders and basic tips are listed to help people protect themselves.  For example, use generators outdoors and away from windows.  Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.  Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.  Sign up for local alerts and warning systems. Monitor weather reports.  If safe, go to an alternate location for heat or cooling. Utilities and ready.gov encourage similar plans of action to take before, during and after an outage.  Utilities focus on reliability but must also urge customers to be prepared for outages.  Xcel offers customers tips on food safety, keeping your mobile device charged and how to stay safe by avoiding downed power lines.  Under ‘Be Ready’, Xcel includes a checklist for an Outage Kit with items to assist members in the community during an outage. 

Due to California’s extremely dry weather, extreme heat and high winds, PG&E announced possible shutoffs for 21 counties. Keeping customers informed before, during and after an outage, planned or otherwise, lends to an improved customer experience.   PG&E has spelled out how they hope to maintain customer communication during a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).  The utility will provide more information and resources by improving the website bandwidth and customer notifications.  They will open Community Resource Centers and work with local agencies and critical service providers.   PG&E has also launched a new tool at its online Safety Action Center to help customers prepare for emergencies.

I wasn’t expecting yesterday’s brief power outage but I’m glad I was prepared to call Xcel, report the issue and stay informed about restoration.  How are you preparing your customers for emergencies this month?

Nevelyn Black's picture

Thank Nevelyn for the Post!

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