PUC Offers Storm Safety Tips; Reminds Residents to Prepare, Report Outages and Consider Safety

Authored By: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

As the first wintery storm of the season approaches most of Pennsylvania, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) reminds residents that preparation and awareness are essential parts of winter storm safety.

“Take a few minutes to address some key pre-storm items to help keep yourself and your family secure, and understand what you can and should do to stay safe and to help ensure that storm-related problems are addressed as quickly as possible,” said Chairman Gladys M. Brown.

Chairman Brown noted that there is extensive behind-the-scenes work whenever a storm bears down on Pennsylvania. Utilities put their storm response plans into motion; crews and equipment are positioned for quick response to outages; and communication with emergency management coordinators is enhanced.  During storm emergencies, the PUC continuously monitors utility issues and works closely with the Governor’s Office and other state agencies involved in Pennsylvania’s coordinated storm response.

According to the most recent data compiled by the PUC, tree-related outages are the number one cause of service disruptions to Pennsylvania customers, and can have a substantial impact during the storm events – especially when high winds combine with ice or heavy wet snow coats trees and power lines.

While utilities spend an extensive amount of time maintaining trees within their rights-of-way, it is also important to note that property owners play a key role in helping to prevent or minimize power outages – especially those caused by falling trees. From ensuring that trees outside the utility right-of-way are healthy and well-maintained to planting the “right trees in the right places,” homeowners and businesses can help reduce the number of storm outages and accelerate repairs.

Pre-Storm tips:

  • Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on your monthly bills and posted on the PUC website.
  • Save the website address for your utility’s outage reporting system, which can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Those electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites are available on the PUC website.
  • Keep your cell phone charged, so you can contact your utility, other emergency services and family members during any power outage.
  • Secure necessary food, medicine and other supplies, including batteries for flashlights. 

Should you lose power during a storm, consider the following:

  • Call your utility hotline to report outages - Do not assume that the utility already knows about your outage or that others have already called.
  • Do NOT touch or approach any fallen lines.
  • Stay away from objects or puddles in contact with downed power lines.
  • Do NOT try to remove trees or limbs from power lines.
  • Pre-charge cellular phones or keep a portable cell phone charger on hand.  Plan to use a corded phone, cordless phones won’t work without electricity.
  • Do NOT call 9-1-1 to report power outages. Those calls take dispatchers away from other emergencies and can also slow a storm response because you're not talking directly to the utility.
  • SPECIAL NOTE: If you have a downed power line or another hazardous situation, call 9-1-1 and then contact your utility.

Tips to help stay safe until power is restored:

  • Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
  • If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage. Also, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home's electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines. Additional generator tips are available here.
  • Turn off lights and electrical appliances (except for the refrigerator and freezer). When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment.
  • After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances.
  • Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance.

Consumers using natural gas appliances can also be impacted by storms:

  • Electric power outages can affect gas furnaces and other appliances. If they do not function properly when power is restored call a professional for service.
  • If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building immediately. Leave the door open and do NOT use phones, switch lights or turn appliances on or off, or take any other action while inside the building. After you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

Original Press Release