What are some factors that cause power outages?
- High winds blowing trees and branches onto power lines
- Vehicles striking and breaking utility poles
- High winds breaking utility poles
- High winds blowing lines into trees
- Cold-load pick-up problems
- Animals such as birds, snakes and squirrels climbing poles and contacting both the pole and the power line
- Snow and ice build-up that causes power lines to break or touch tree branches
- Overloaded lines
- Problems at substations
How does Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative restore power?GCEC’s power restoration procedures are very simple. We try to restore power to as many families as possible as quickly as possible. Below are the steps GCEC takes to restore power:
- Restore power to substations
- Repair main feeder lines in populated residential areas
- Repair three-phase lines in built-up rural areas
- After three-phase lines have been repaired, repair single-phase lines
- Individual services and transformers are the last to be repaired
- Weather heads and meter bases torn from the dwelling by falling trees or ice are the responsibility of the homeowner
What other steps does the Cooperative take to be prepared for and respond to severe/prolonged outages?We are committed to doing everything within our power to restore power as quickly as possible. During a severe outage lasting several days, the Cooperative will do the following:
- Call in employees from other, unaffected, GCEC offices
- Call in outside help from other rural electric cooperatives
- Hire additional contract line and tree-trimming crews
- Work long hours every day and night until power is restored
- Use local media to update customers as to our progress
- What should my family do when the power goes out?
How do I report a power outage?Call your GCEC office at 1-800-568-3667 or 1-800-333-9392. Give the office personnel your name and address. If you have a bill stub, give them your customer number. If you cannot get through, please be patient and remember that many other customers may be calling to report the outage. We value your phone calls because they allow us to track the size and severity of the outage.
How often should I report the outage?Once you report an outage, please give GCEC time to respond and repair the damage. The cause of the outage may be miles from your home; therefore, you may not see our vehicles in your area. If your power has not been restored within a few hours of your first call, please call again and report your outage. You should also call again if power is restored to your neighbors, but not to your home. If severe weather strikes, such as a tornado or hurricane, it may be several days before power is restored to all of our members. During such an extended outage, it is helpful if customers call and report their outage each morning.
What should my family do during an extended outage?If the power goes out, turn off your electric heating/cooling system
Turn off appliances and lights, leaving one light on to signal the restoration of power (preferably a front porch light)
Open refrigerators and freezers only as needed
After power has been restored, turn on heating/cooling system and appliances one by one over a period of time to minimize the strain on our electric system and to prevent cold-load pick-up problems
Report all damage in your community. If you cannot get through to us, it may be because others in your area are calling to report damage.
Listen to local radio stations for updates
If the weather is extreme, seek shelter if possible
What is cold-load pick-up and why does it cause problems for GCEC?Cold-load pick-up problems occur during severe cold or hot weather when we try to restore power. When power is disrupted in the winter, many families leave their heating systems and appliances on. When power is restored, those heating systems cause a huge drain on the power lines and can cause line protection equipment to take the overloaded lines off line because the heavy load acts the same as a fault on the line.
Cold-load pick-up problems also occur in the summer when families and businesses are running air-conditioning units and heat pumps. Cold-load pick-up problems are prevented when customers turn off their electric heating or air-conditioning systems, lights and appliances and then, after power has been restored, turn them back on over a period of time.
How should I use a portable generator?Portable generators, especially generators designed for home use, are not powerful enough to run your entire home. Necessary appliances such as the refrigerator, freezer or a space heater should be plugged into the generator. You should never plug your generator in your home's outlets. This can cause our line workers to be electrocuted when they attempt to restore power to your home because they believe that your home is not energized. Also, you should never bring a generator indoors. It should only be run outside in a well-ventilated area. Using a generator indoors may cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which is lethal.
A generator connected to your home's wiring systems must have a double-throw switch that disconnects the generator and your home from GCEC’s power system. This switch must be installed by a licensed electrician and must be inspected by the state or county electrical inspector. If you plan to use a portable generator during an extended power outage, we ask that you can Sid Dykes, supervisor of our engineering department. He may be reached at 265-3631 or 1-800-568-3667.
Farm and commercial generators must be installed with a switch that disconnects the home or building from GCEC's power system while the generator is being used.
Should I help Gulf Coast EC by removing trees from power lines?No. It is impossible to tell just by looking at them if power lines are energized. Live trees are excellent conductors of electricity, as are metal chain saw blades and bars. If GCEC reports that power is out in your area, be aware that neighbors incorrectly using electric generators could be sending electricity into the lines.
Why does my neighbor have lights while my home is still without power?Your neighbor's home may be on a different line. For example, a three-phase line may run right in front of your home, but you may receive power through a single-phase line running through your backyard. Also, the problem may be on the wire between the pole and your home or, your phase of a three-phase line may be out while the other two are still operating.