Power Blinks – When your lights blink briefly or you lose power for just a few moments, you have experienced a momentary outage that is frequently called a “blink.” These outages happen when automatic devices called reclosers detect a problem, such as a small animal or branch on the lines. The reclosers, much like a circuit breaker in your home, temporarily shut off power in response to these issues in order to protect our electrical equipment from potential damage. After the initial shut-off, they restore power within moments. If the problem was temporary, members will only experience a blink. If the problem persists, the recloser will keep power shut off until a crew can remove the interference or make repairs.
Sustained Outage – A sustained outage is a total loss of power in a localized portion of the service territory that lasts for a sustained period of time. These are the longer outages that everyone dreads. Many factors could end up being the cause of a sustained outage such as trees falling, vehicle accidents, or many others. If your power goes out, we encourage you to report this to our outage dispatchers, 800-690-0522. Member reports help us verify that we have accurate information on the location affected by the outage. When an outage strikes, our staff and crews coordinate to fix the problem as soon as possible. You can view outages that are affecting our system on our real-time Outage Map and follow our Facebook for progress updates on major outages.
Planned Outage – Sometimes Halifax Electric Membership Corporation needs to interrupt electric service to a specific area so our crews can perform scheduled maintenance safely. When this maintenance is needed, we always make phone calls to inform members who would be affected in advance. We encourage members to keep their contact information up-to-date with us so we have the best way to reach them if needed in anticipation of a planned outage. Planned outages are typically scheduled during weekdays when most members would be out of the house. We are aware that some members at home during those hours will be affected, but ask for their understanding so we can perform the kind of critical maintenance that keeps our system in the best shape possible. For more information on planned outages, you can watch the video below.
Transmission Outage – In some cases, an unplanned, sustained outage can occur that is not due to damage or malfunction on HEMC’s system. This is known as a “transmission outage” because it occurs when our substations experience an interruption in service from the neighboring utility lines we are connected to. Transmission outages have the potential to affect large areas of our service territory and can make it difficult to determine when power will be restored because repairs are being conducted by another company and crews. In some cases, HEMC can get around these difficulties by “backfeeding” power, meaning redirecting electricity from one area of our system that is unaffected by the outage to areas that are currently without power. Rest assured that even during these events we are doing everything within our power to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. If you would like more information on transmission outages and how your Cooperative’s power is transported to our own lines, you can watch the video below.
Outages and other power interruptions such as power blinks can be caused by a variety of factors, some large and some small. Below is a list of the most common contributors to power outages:
- Tree Limbs – Falling trees or tree limbs that come into contact with our power lines are the leading cause of power interruptions on our system. Age of trees, compounded with factors such as damage from extreme weather or invasive pest can make trees a risk for falling and damaging power lines, sometimes even breaking utility poles. In a heavily-wooded area like ours, this is a recurring issue and one that Halifax Electric Membership Corporation takes very seriously. We invest heavily in trimming trees limbs in our rights-of-way throughout our service territory to limit these events as much as possible.
- Weather – Power can be affected by weather events like extreme temperatures (either heat or cold), ice buildup on power lines, lightning strikes, or high winds and heavy rain from storms. In severe cases, older power lines can be completely broken by strong winds during major storms! In addition, the trees in our area, especially older, very tall trees that stand outside our rights-of-way and trimming areas, can be toppled by high winds and cause damage to utility lines and poles. Extreme weather events are on the rise which may cause more frequent outages than many members are used to. Halifax Electric Membership Corporation tracks weather events headed towards our service territory to ensure its crews are prepared to restore power efficiently and safely when an outage strikes.
- Animals – Small animals, typically squirrels or birds, are sometimes responsible for short circuiting pole-mounted electrical equipment like transformers or fuses. While these animals are able to safely perch on or climb across high voltage power lines, making secondary contact with another wire or piece of equipment gives the electrical current a path to the ground. This can disrupt your power, usually in the form of a power blink, when a pole-mounted recloser detects an abnormality in the flow of power. It is rarer for these circumstances to cause a sustained outage, but it is possible in cases where the animal comes in contact with certain pieces of sensitive equipment.
- Vehicle Accidents – Accidents involving road vehicles or farm and construction equipment can damage poles, sometimes even breaking them. In cases where a pole is broken, Halifax Electric Membership Corporation must install a replacement pole before power can be fully restored.
- Equipment Failure – Some outages can be caused by the failure or breakdown of electrical distribution equipment. These cases are rare for Halifax Electric Membership Corporation’s members due to HEMC’s commitment to stringent, regular maintenance and inspection of its electrical distribution technology. Pieces of equipment are replaced within each piece’s “life cycle” to prevent cases of equipment failure and regular upgrades are implemented across our system to improve service reliability.
Power outages are an inconvenient disruption, but some are unfortunately unavoidable. Halifax Electric Membership Corporation’s crews work hard to restore power following an outage, though in the case of some large-scale outage events or extreme storms, it can be hard to determine when your lights may be coming back on. It helps to prepare ahead of time for these events so you can successfully ride out the storm, even without a generator. Following the tips below can help make sure you are ready for the next big storm:
Have Plenty of Food
- Keep a 3-to-5-day supply of drinking water in plastic bottles. Plan on at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day, plus extra for pets.
- Store a manual can opener with enough nonperishable foods for 3 to 5 days – Canned meats, tuna fish, and peanut butter are good foods to store.
- Keep plenty of pet food on-hand for any animals in your home.
- Conserve water by using paper plates and plastic utensils.
- Invest in a camp stove or grill for outdoor cooking.
Stay In Touch
- Have a portable, battery-powered radio and alarm clock.
- Have one non-portable phone that will work even if power is interrupted.
- Plan where to meet and how to communicate with family members if separated.
- Keep essential family member contact information near your phone, in your wallet, and in your glove compartment.
- Check online for information on local charging stations, or warming stations during winter storms. Your town or municipality will usually provide information on these services when available!
Keep Things Going
- Keep plenty of gas in your car.
- Keep extra batteries, matches, propane, charcoal, and firewood.
- If you have a generator, make sure you know how to operate it safely!
Stay Happy, Healthy, and Warm
- Coordinate with neighbors for care of the elderly and disabled living alone.
- Maintain a supply of prescriptions, nonprescription drugs, vitamins, and special dietary foods.
- Keep sanitary and personal hygiene supplies replenished. Premoistened cleansing towelettes are useful and help conserve water.
- Use plastic trash bags and ties for garbage.
- Put first-aid kits in your home and car.
- Make sure you have cold weather clothing, foul weather gear, blankets, and sleeping bags.
- Use flashlights and other battery-operated lighting instead of candles.
- Keep fire extinguishers fully charged.
- If your home uses well water, fill your bathtub with water for bathroom use before the storm.
- If you own reptiles or other temperature-sensitive pets, covering their enclosure with blankets and regularly providing them with hand warmers or bottles full of warm water to lean against can help protect them from the cold.
- To keep yourself and your family entertained without your electric-powered or internet-connected devices, make sure you have plenty of books, board games, puzzles, or other activities ready that can keep you busy until your power is restored.
Let’s say your lights have just gone out. If you’ve checked your circuit breaker to verify that you have not blown a fuse and also confirmed that other homes in your area are also without power, you’re likely experiencing a power outage. Your Co-op should display an outage in your area on our Online Outage Map and our crews will be preparing to respond to the situation. We encourage all members to call in to our outage hotline (800-690-0522) to report when they’re experiencing an outage.
We ask for your patience while our crews begin the steps involved with restoring an outage (see the “Restoring an Outage” tab for details). Whether or not you’ve prepared for an extended outage using the tips above (in the Outage Preparedness section), here are some guidelines and tips that we ask our members to keep in mind while they wait for power to be restored:
- If it’s dark outside, do NOT go out to look for storm damage. There may be downed power lines or other debris that can cause serious injury, as well as severe weather or vehicles that may not be equipped to stop for pedestrians in severe weather conditions.
- Stay off the roads unless it is absolutely necessary. Weather conditions may be unsafe for drivers. Additionally, it is best to keep the roads as clear as possible for utility and emergency vehicles.
- Do NOT try to remove any branches on your property that are tangled in power lines.
- If you see downed power lines on the ground, do not approach them. It is best to assume that all power lines are “live,” even if they aren’t visibly sparking. Keep your distance as well, because their electrical current can affect a wide perimeter around the downed lines.
- If you are connecting a generator to your home, follow all generator safety guidelines to ensure that you are using it safely. Improperly connecting a generator can lead to a deadly backfeed effect sent across power lines and using a generator in an enclosed space or in a non-ventilated area can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you are in need of medical assistance, call 911.
Home Tips While the Power is Off
- Turn off lights and sensitive appliances like computers, TVs, and stereos to protect them from a potential power surge once power is restored. It’s recommended to keep one light switched on so it can signal when power is restored.
- Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer as much as possible to prevent cold air from escaping. Your food will keep longer if the doors remain closed. Food in a refrigerator will typically last about 4 hours before spoiling, and you should check each item for spoilage before serving.
- Dress in layers and use plenty of blankets if your power is out during the winter. Covering drafts and avoiding opening your doors will help prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from entering your home.
- Conserve battery power on your cell phones as much as possible so you have enough charge when it’s most needed.
- Make use of the tips listed in the above Outage Preparedness section to ensure you have sufficient food, water, and first aid supplies to last you through a sustained outage.
- Halifax Electric Membership Corporation’s Online Outage Map provides a real-time visualization of outages affecting our system.
- For large outages affecting many members or sustained outages likely to last a long period, we provide regular updates through our Facebook. Some of these updates will also be available to view on this webpage when an outage is ongoing.
- If you have questions related to Halifax Electric Membership Corporation’s outage response, you can consult our Outage FAQs and our Steps to Restoring an Outage sections.
- During large, extended outages, your town or municipality should provide information on charging stations for your devices or warming stations during winter storms. We will also share this information when it is available to us.
We often take electricity for granted. It makes our homes comfortable day-in and day-out, and it’s at the ready with little more than the flip of a switch. Your Cooperative’s lineworkers are responsible for maintaining a complicated system of power lines that functions around the clock.
What goes on behind the scenes once that switch is thrown is far more complex. The power grid, which can be described as the largest, most complex machine ever built, involves an intricate network of power lines crisscrossing neighborhoods and open country over mountains and through towns. This grid has evolved over the last century to supply customers with safe, reliable, and affordable electricity.
The tricky thing about electricity is that it must be used, or moved to where it can be used, the second it’s produced. It generally can’t be stored like water or gas. What’s more, electricity moves at the speed of light along the path of least resistance. This basic principle calls for a carefully monitored, intricate system to move it 24 hours a day.
The major cause of outages is damage caused by fallen trees, whether they are blown down by high winds or weighed down by snow and ice. That’s why Halifax Electric Membership Corporation has an ongoing right-of-way maintenance program cutting and trimming trees to keep a power line’s path as clear as possible.
We take tree trimming very seriously, constantly trimming our territory on a four-year cycle. Tree trimming is our largest cost for the Cooperative, but worth it to help prevent more frequent outages.
Restoring power after a major outage is a big job that involves much more than simply throwing a switch or removing a tree from a line. The main goal is to restore power safely to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible.
We typically restore power after a major disaster or storm, such as an ice storm, hurricane, or tornado following the steps listed below.
During a major outage, other cooperatives in areas not affected by the storm are prepared to help. They send lines crews to assist with restoring power. A small, localized storm may mean mutual aid crews don’t have to come from too far of a distance away. When the storm is of large scale significance, like a hurricane, the mutual aid crews may be coming from a much further distance, requiring a day or even two, just to reach the affected co-op.
Transmission lines supply power to one or more transmission substations. These lines seldom fail, but they can be damaged by falling trees or storms. Tens of thousands of people could be served by one high-voltage transmission line, so if there is damage here it gets attention first.
A co-op may have several local distribution substations (Halifax EMC has ten), each serving hundreds and sometimes thousands of members. When a major outage occurs, the substations are checked first. A problem here could be caused by failure in the transmission system supplying the substation. If the problem can be corrected at the substation level, power may be restored to a large number of people.
Many distribution supply lines (sometimes referred to as circuits or “three-phase lines”) are checked next if the problem cannot be isolated at the substation. These supply lines carry electricity away from the substation to a group of consumers (usually numbering in the hundreds), such as a town or main highways and roads. When power is restored at this stage, all consumers served by this supply lines could see the lights come on, as long as there is no problem farther down the line.
The final supply lines, called tap lines or “single-phase lines,” carry power to the utility poles or underground transformers outside houses or other buildings. Line crews fix the remaining outages based on restoring service to the greatest number of members.
Sometimes, damage will occur on the service line between your house and the transformer on the nearby pole. This can explain why you have no power when your neighbor does. Your Co-op needs to know you have an outage here, so a service crew can repair it.
Local conditions may lead to deviations and variations in this restoration plan. Every restoration has its own characteristics. Multiple crews are typically working on multiple areas simultaneously. Damage in one area may not be as severe as in another area. This can result in one area that has damaged three-phase lines appearing to be restored after an area that has only a few single-phase lines down. Timing of repairs has an effect as does ease or difficulty of repairs and what is involved with the repair.
Members themselves (not the Co-op) are responsible for damage to the service installation at the home or building, which includes the service entrance cable and the meter pan on the building. Your co-op can’t fix this and you will need to call a licensed electrician to make the necessary repairs first. Then, the Co-op will come and re-establish the connection to the service wire from the pole.
It’s a big job, but our line crews are up to the challenge. If there is an outage in your area, you can help crews pinpoint damage by calling us at 800-690-0522. Even if your neighbors have already called, every bit of information we have helps get the power flowing smoothly again.
To keep up with our restoration efforts, keep an eye on our Online Outage Map for a good visualization of where outages are in our territory, how many people are affected, and where crews have been assigned. For more detailed updates on an outage situation, follow our Facebook for updates. During major outages, we continuously post updates to keep our members informed as the situation develops. We will also post outage updates to this webpage during major ongoing outage, as other important information like locations of local warming shelters.