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Exercising Caution As Power Outages Arise During Winter Storms, Icy Conditions

GREENSBURG (KDKA) -- As anticipated, ice from the storm has caused scattered power outages across the region.

FirstEnergy's Todd Meyers says resist the temptation to attack that downed tree that wiped out the power line coming to your home.

"Any wires on the ground, you need to assume are live energized power lines. And so you need to stay away from those lines they don't need to be sputtering and blowing wind sparks for them to be live."

Once you call your utility company, the first person to arrive may not seem to be doing anything initially, "But what they're doing is they're a hazard responder. They're not a qualified lineman, but what they're doing is they're making sure nobody comes near that line until the lineman comes with the truck. And when a line worker does arrive. There may be situations where they're there just for a little bit and, and they leave and the power is not back on and the reason the power is not back on it because they're moving on to that next hazard."

Often times, the 'hazards' are connected and they have to be dealt with in order. "It's not that we don't care about those customers."

Meyers says the utility companies in a post storm power restoration mode have a protocol. "We do the big outages first, and then work our way to the smaller count outages. You're looking for the fixes that get the largest number of customers on first."

Plus he says priority is always given to emergency facilities like hospitals and to buildings housing the elderly.

As you wait for your power to be restored Meyers says a lot of people will turn to generators, "Generators are a good tool, but please make sure a qualified electrician has has helped you install."

Watch as KDKA's John Shumway reports:


A generator can be wired into your home's electricity to get some things back up and running, but if its not done properly it can shock a utility worker down the street trying to get your power restored. "First, you have to make sure that none of the power comes back off that generator off the home lines and back through the transformer and find our lines where the guys are working. That can be very dangerous for us."

The utility company workers can tell you story after story of finding people doing unsafe things to try and stay warm.

Meyers says, "Never bring inside charcoal grills, gas grills, lanterns for camping, for any kind of warmth or illumination. Those types of things need to be outside because if you bring them inside again you're putting yourself and family at risk of carbon monoxide."

If your power is down and you can get out, Meyers says to stock up on basics like water and food that doesn't require cooking.

And make sure the batteries in your flashlights are fresh and ready for the potential of several dark nights.

While the utility companies would like to make a general statement of how long the power might be off, Meyers says it all depends on the storm, what part of the power grid is taken out, and how long those repairs take.

So there is no way to make a prediction.


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