How We Restore Power

HOW WE RESTORE POWER

When widespread outages occur due to severe weather, RMPU will prioritize repairs in the order that will restore power to the most people as long as weather conditions allow.

Illustration showing order of power restoration

1. Transmission Lines: High voltage lines that carry power from the city’s power source to substations serving thousands of customers

2. Substations: Point where high voltage is lowered to feed distribution lines

3. Distribution Lines: Lines that carry power to a large group of customers, such as subdivisions and commercial areas

4. Neighborhood Tap Lines: Lines that move power to individual streets

5. Individual Service Lines: Lines that serve individual homes and businesses

Download Illustration (PDF, 226 KB)


Power Restoration FAQs
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1. Does Rocky Mount Public Utilities (RMPU) have a special storm response plan?

The city of Rocky Mount has an emergency response plan that dictates how emergencies are handled for the entire city. RMPU has a separate emergency response plan established for identifying and implementing the most direct course of action to safely restore electrical power to the customers of the city’s electric system. RMPU’s priorities include ensuring the health and safety of all customers and employees, ensuring the electrical services are restored as quickly as possible, and informing the public of the status of the situation to seek their cooperation. This plan is reviewed annually and after each event to update as required.

2. What causes a power outage?

The most common causes of outages are:

  • Small animals that chew into lines or encounter a piece of equipment or energized line

  • Severe weather (e.g. lightning, high winds and ice) can result in fallen trees and limbs and downed power lines

  • Equipment failures

  • Vehicle collision with utility poles or equipment

  • Digging without having underground lines located can result in striking a power line. This can cause not only power outages but also damage to equipment, fines and serious injury. Always Call Before You Dig.

3. What does RMPU do to reduce power outages?

RMPU trims trees on a regular cycle to prevent them from damaging or blowing into power lines. We install animal guards around our field equipment to protect against short circuits caused by animals. We also have a reliability committee that evaluates areas with multiple outages or operations. The committee evaluates the causes of the outage and recommends a plan of action to address the causes. We continually upgrade and expand our facilities to keep pace with growth in our area and enhance reliability. We also investigate uses of new technology.

4. What are the levels of power outages?

A minor electrical power outage is any electrical power outage or combination of electrical power outages that can be restored in less than 24 hours.
A major electrical power outage without outside assistance is any electrical power outage or combination of electrical power outages that will take more than 24 hours to restore. City electric personnel will restore power before outside assistance could reasonably be expected to be available.
A major electrical power outage with outside assistance is any electrical power outage or combination of electrical power outages that will take more than 24 hours to restore. City electric personnel will restore power until outside assistance is available through the ElectriCities Emergency Assistance Program or the American Public Power Association assistance program.

5. How does RMPU handle increased calls during major power outages?

The utility dispatch operations office is open 24/7. In the event of a major power outage, other utility personnel are brought in to take additional calls. For an event that may last several days, personnel from other city departments may also be used to assist as call takers.

6. Does RMPU know when a customer is without power?

Not necessarily. We encourage all customers to report their outage by calling (252) 467-4800. This helps us identify and analyze the specific problem and restore power more quickly.

7. What happens when a customer reports an outage?

Each call is recorded in our Outage Management System for analysis to determine the most likely cause of the outage. Orders are dispatched to field personnel to go to the location of the outage to assess the problem.

8. How does RMPU decide whose power is restored first?

When widespread outages occur, RMPU will prioritize repairs in the order that will restore power to the most people if weather conditions allow. The order of restoration is as follows:
1. Transmission Lines: high voltage lines that carry power from the city’s power source to substations serving thousands of customers
2. Substations: point where high voltage is lowered to feed distribution lines
3. Distribution Lines: lines that carry power to a large group of customers, such as subdivisions and commercial areas
4. Neighborhood Tap Lines: lines that move power to individual streets
5. Individual Service Lines: lines that serve individual homes and businesses
How We Restore Power illustration
Download the illustration (PDF, 226KB)
How We Restore Power illustration
Customers with life-sustaining equipment should notify their rescue squads and fire departments, and have emergency back-up equipment on hand.

9. When will RMPU personnel not make repairs during a storm?

The safety of the workforce will always come first in the event of a power outage. Field supervisors will stop working and seek shelter, as needed, to protect employees. This may include winds sustained at 35 mph or greater, ice accumulation on limbs causing them to break, floodwaters rising into affected areas, or when the onsite supervisor determines the work area is too dangerous.

10. Can you tell me when my power will be restored?

Several factors are involved in service restoration efforts that affect our ability to predict when restoration will occur. When a crew arrives to make repairs, it must investigate the cause of the outage. The crew may encounter complex problems that require additional time, equipment or work crews. Weather conditions, accessibility to damaged areas, the time of day, safety, and environmental issues are among the many factors that contribute to the amount of time it takes to restore power. These factors make it difficult to predict when power will be restored.

11. My house is fed from underground power lines, so why did I lose power?

Even though the power lines servicing your home are underground, the outage could be caused by damage to the overhead distribution lines that carry power from the substation to your neighborhood or home. (Refer to question #2 for common causes of power outages and question #8 for the order of power restoration.)

12. Who is responsible for repairs when the meter is damaged?

RMPU is responsible for the service line from the pole to the premise and the meter. The homeowner owns the weatherhead and meter base that is attached to the house. The following illustration shows the difference between customer-owned and utility-owned equipment.
Utility-owned and customer-owned equipment
Download the illustration (PDF, 206KB)

13. What safety precautions should be followed when using a portable generator during a power outage?

Improper use of portable generators can be dangerous and even deadly. It is important to review the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage. The two main hazards associated with generators are carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust and electrocution from connecting the generator to the home electrical wiring system.
Generators should only be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from doors, windows, vents and other openings. This will prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home. Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages. Also, carbon monoxide detectors (either battery-operated or plug-in with battery backup) should be installed inside the home.
To prevent back feed and electric shock, only use a generator wired by a qualified electrician. Do not attach a generator directly to the electrical system of a structure unless the generator has a properly installed transfer switch. This prevents the electric load of the home from being put on the electric grid, which could injure utility workers restoring power.
Plug electric appliances directly into the generator using only manufacturer supplied cords or undamaged, grounded, heavy-duty extension cords. Remember to shut down the generator before refueling, and always keep the generator dry.

14. Why does my neighbor have power and I don’t?

While you and your neighbor may live on the same street, the service to your home may not be from the same source. Your neighbor’s service could be connected to different equipment or provided by a different circuit. Additionally, the cause of your outage could be from damage to the individual service line to your home. Always call (252) 467-4800 to report your outage, so we can identify the specific problem to restore power more quickly.

15. A city truck just drove by my house and didn’t stop to restore my power. Why?

The truck you saw is probably trying to attend to a problem that will restore power to many customers at one time. (Refer to question #8 for the order of power restoration.) Customers are encouraged to call (252) 467-4800 to report their outage. This helps us identify and analyze the specific problem and restore power more quickly.

16. Why do my lights blink sometimes during high winds?

“Blinks” are split-second interruptions in service. While they may be annoying, they serve an important purpose. For example, when a tree limb falls on an electric line, automatic sensing equipment detects a potentially dangerous condition and temporarily breaks the circuit for a split second. The very brief break in the flow of electricity protects essential parts of the electric delivery system from major damage and helps prevent outages. They are a normal part of power delivery systems. They used to go unnoticed, but today’s computers and other electronic equipment are sensitive and can be affected by a momentary interruption that lasts only a fraction of a second.