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Power outages: Best practices and tips from Toledo Edison

General rule: Stay at least 30 feet away from downed poles and live wires
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 6:25 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Last weekend’s windstorm knocked out power to thousands of Toledoans, and we’ve had our fair share of November gales in the last few weeks... so it’s as good a time as any for a refresher course of what to do if and when the lights start flickering.

Chris Eck with Toledo Edison says long-term power outages are rare in northwest Ohio, though storms like we had last weekend can certainly throw a wrench into things. “We have significant uptime at Toledo Edison, great reliability -- among some of the most reliable utilities in the state,” says Eck. “Outside of these big storms, we generally don’t have many troubles in Toledo with power outages. It’s just impossible to make infrastructure that’s entirely Mother Nature-proof.”

Any long-term delays in fixing the line can often be chalked up to crews having to work from the substation out to find the problem. Eck likens it to another problem we’re all too familiar with in the Midwest: “If you have a big blizzard, you don’t start with plowing residential streets -- you clear the main thoroughfares first. Restoring power is largely that same process. If your house is out at the end of a circuit, and there’s 100 breaks in the line between the substation and your home, it’s going to take a while to fix all of that before we get to your house.”

With winter fast approaching, you may be in the market for a backup generator -- though Eck discourages the DIY project to follow. “If you want to have a generator, that’s great as well, but make sure it’s hooked up by a professional,” he urges. “The problem with home generators is they feed voltage back out onto the lines, and that can be hazardous for our crews. When an electrician installs a generator in your house, they’ll put in a switch that automatically shuts off access to the grid, so all the power you’re making goes to your purposes. If you don’t have that cutoff switch, that power can go back out onto the grid, and people working on the wires even a mile away can get shocked by it.”

Downed power lines are a frequent hazard after big storms, and they’re not always easy to spot. “You can’t tell by looking whether it’s carrying electricity or not,” Eck warns. “They don’t always snap, pop or spark like they do in the movies -- sometimes they’re just laying there.”

As much as you want your yard cleared out ASAP, other hidden dangers mean you may want to dial back the go-getter attitude. “Trees and branches come down with wires wrapped up in them, and [people] want to get out and clean up the debris,” says Eck. “If you have wires in that debris, please stay away until our crews have gotten there and tell you it’s safe to work on it.”

Toledo Edison recommends staying at least 30 feet back from any live wires you come across, and to keep an eye on your pets after a power outage -- don’t let the dogs wander around the yard, lest they find the wire before you do.

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