Here’s what happens when your power goes out

When I lost power, I learned how Duke Energy manages service interruptions and keeps customers informed

I was out running errands the other day when my phone buzzed. I mistakenly thought it was my wife reminding me to pick up a few things at the supermarket.

Instead, it was a text message from Duke Energy alerting me that an outage had been identified in my neighborhood and power might be out at my home. The text showed an estimated time for the power to be back on, the reason for the outage (trees) and that crews had been dispatched.

Video shows the process for restoring power.

While it’s always frustrating to experience a power outage, I was encouraged the situation was already addressed, and the outage alert I had in place gave me both peace of mind and information to plan around.

Duke Energy’s strategy for monitoring and responding to power outages keeps customers informed through several channels. I was impressed and wanted to learn more about how the company works to restore power and how it keeps customers up to date.

“We take our work very seriously, and every employee has both an everyday role and a storm function,” said Jeff Brooks, Duke Energy spokesperson. “And so when a hurricane hits or a major winter storm comes through the area, we put on our restoration hats and we go to work.

The outage map is accessible on a Web page or app.

“Preparation and planning start really before the storm hits in most cases,” Brooks said. “If it's a storm-related outage, that begins with our team of meteorologists that forecast the storm’s track and potential impacts. We take that information and plug it into an outage modeling system that helps predict the number of outages that might occur, based on experiences in previous storms. It also enables us to better plan where to place crews and resources ahead of the storm, so they can quickly respond.”

Though my outage occurred on a sunny day, recent rains had softened the ground and led to an aged tree falling on a power line. Trees, it turns out, are a major source of outages. “Trees are part of the natural beauty of the areas in which we live, but fallen trees and tree limbs are also a leading cause of outages,” said Brooks. Other prime causes of outages are animals interfering with lines and equipment and, in urban areas, cars hitting utility poles.

While some service interruptions like these are unavoidable, Duke Energy’s grid improvement initiative is delivering technologies to monitor components on the power grid. “Monitoring these systems gives us the ability to identify a potential failure before it happens and schedule maintenance,” Brooks said. “We're also making improvements that can automatically detect power outages and reroute power to other lines when a power outage occurs.”

Smart meters improve outage detection and more quickly verify power has been restored. It’s always a good idea, however, for customers to tell Duke Energy when their power goes out.

Duke Energy's app makes it easy to report an outage and review your information.

Customers can report outages by texting “OUT” to 57801, using the Duke Energy mobile app (available for free download) at or by calling the toll-free number.

“We want customers to report their outages,” Brooks said. “This gives us a better picture of where we still have problems, and it connects the customer to the utility. Customers can have the system contact them by phone or text if they want to leave their home and be contacted when their outage is restored.”

Brooks said Duke Energy’s outage map provides affected customers with current information about the status of their outage, such as the cause and estimated time of restoration. “It’s important to note the estimated time for repair reflects when the last customer on the damaged line will be restored,” Brooks said. “Often customers have their power restored before that time.”

In my case, the estimate communicated in my text for power restoration was two hours. One hour later, the lights were back on, another text informed me. Just in time. Five minutes later, I was pulling into my driveway and I didn’t want to wrestle with my heavy garage door manually. One push on my opener and in I went.

Duke Energy’s commitment to keeping its customers informed gives me comfort knowing on the rare occasions when my service is interrupted, I’ll have a handle on knowing when the lights will be back on.

What to do if the power goes out

For storm or power restoration updates, follow Duke Energy on Twitter (@DukeEnergy) and Facebook (Duke Energy). Customers can report power outages by:

  • Logging on to the Duke Energy mobile app or
  • Texting OUT to 57801 (standard text and data charges may apply).
  • Calling the automated outage-reporting system:
    • Duke Energy Carolinas: 800.769.3766
    • Duke Energy Progress: 800.419.6356
    • Duke Energy Florida: 800.228.8485
    • Duke Energy Indiana: 800.343.3525
    • Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky: 800.543.5599

Consider all downed power lines and anything touching them energized. Report power line hazards to Duke Energy.