A PHI Company

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Outages and Emergency Preparedness

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my neighbor have power but I don’t?

It may be that your neighbors are on a different supply line or there may be trouble just on the section of the line supplying your immediate area. The cause of the outage may be isolated to one fuse, one transformer or a group of transformers, or the problem may be on the service line connected to your residence. If all of your surrounding neighbors’ lights are on and you are still without power, check your breaker box for a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse. If that does not appear to be the case, please call us to report your outage using the emergency service number for your area:

In New Castle County (DE) and Cecil and Harford Counties (MD) 1-800-898-8042
In Kent and Sussex Counties (DE) or the Eastern Shore of Maryland 1-800-898-8045

Why is Delmarva Power often unable to give out exact restoration times?

We continually work to improve upon our ability to provide restoration times to customers. Several considerations come into play when estimating restoration times. One important factor, particularly after a large storm, is completion of our damage assessment. Until the assessment is done, it is hard to provide a restoration time, especially in cases where we have sustained massive numbers of outages. Other factors include weather, accessibility to damaged areas, coordination with other agencies working on the storm restoration such as public works, tree removal, and changing public safety and health priorities, all of which may affect our estimates. We do everything we can to provide an estimate of restoration time as soon as it reasonably can be done. Even then, it is possible that estimates may change during the course of restoration as field crews arrive on the scene.

When you call us to report a power outage, we provide an estimate for restoration based on current reported field conditions and predictions from our automated Outage Management System (OMS).

When a repair crew arrives on the scene, they may discover additional or more complex problems that require additional time, equipment or crews. They will update the restoration time estimate and we will reflect those changes when you call again to check on the status of the restoration.

Since Hurricane Isabel in 2003, we have made many improvements to help us provide better estimates and more information, including upgrades to our Outage Management System (OMS), improved wires-down, damage assessment and crew management processes, additional cross training for employees who will assist customers during emergency situations, and outage maps displayed in our “Storm Center”.

Why do Delmarva Power crews sometimes leave my neighborhood before power is restored?

Crews working near your home - even across the street - may be fixing a feeder that does not serve your home or may be securing downed wires for follow-up by repair crews. Or, there could be more than one location on the power line that is damaged. If you see our crews leaving your area without restoring power, another area may need to be repaired to activate your line or they may need specialized equipment to finish repairs.

Why is it that when a crew responds to my report of a wire down at my home or neighborhood, they are “standing by” or not working to get my lights back on?

Public safety is our number one priority and when we receive a report of a wire down, we will dispatch the closest available line crew to respond. However, in the event of storms where we have massive outages, we may first send other Delmarva Power personnel to: 1) relieve fire services or police personnel until a line crew can arrive, 2) stand by to make sure the area is safe to the public until a line crew can arrive, or 3) if the wire is not a Delmarva Power wire, identify it as cable TV, telephone, or other telecommunications wire and attempt to notify the person reporting the downed wire or the nearest residence or business of our findings.

Is priority given to customers on life support?

We recognize the hardships that special needs customers face during extended outages. However, special needs customers, including those who rely on life-support equipment, are located everywhere throughout our service area and on just about every distribution feeder. We are working with community and emergency services agencies to better define and provide a clear understanding of our individual obligations. Through our community outreach, we want to help customers and communities understand their responsibilities to make arrangements ahead of time to prepare for extended outages when a major storm threatens. For more information, please call the customer care number 1-800-375-7117.

Can’t Delmarva Power eliminate power outages by putting all power lines underground?

Burying power lines, which is very costly to customers, is not the answer to all outages. While placing power lines underground may result in fewer outages caused by storms, when outages do occur they are typically of much longer duration. Locating the source of the outage is more difficult because it is not visible, requires the use of specialized equipment to test for and locate the problem, and digging up the cable adds time to the repair. Furthermore, sections of a feeder may be placed underground but we cannot always bury the entire feeder, and the remaining overhead sections are still vulnerable to weather and tree-related outages.

How long will food in my refrigerator and freezer last?

Food will stay frozen for 36-48 hours in a fully loaded freezer if you keep the door closed. A half-full freezer will generally keep food frozen for 24 hours. If it looks like the power will be out for more than 2 - 4 hours, place refrigerated foods such as milk, dairy products, meats, fish and poultry in a cooler surrounded by ice. Perishable foods should not be left at temperatures above 40 degrees F for more than two hours. A quick-response digital food thermometer will help you check the temperature of food in your refrigerator for safety.

What is the best way to protect my food and medicine?

The best way to protect food and refrigerated medicine is with regular ice in an insulated cooler. Ice is inexpensive, easy to use and readily available from a number of retail sources. It is also the best way to preserve medicines that must be refrigerated.

Another alternative is dry ice. Dry ice is available from a limited number of retailers, and there are special handling and safety precautions that must be followed. It takes a lot of dry ice to keep food frozen in a large freezer. For example, 25 pounds of dry ice is needed to keep the temperature below freezing for two or three days in a half-full 10-cubic foot freezer. It takes 50-100 pounds of dry ice to keep a full 18- cubic foot freezer safe for two days. There are also safety concerns if you use dry ice. Gloves or tongs should always be used to handle dry ice, and food should be separated from dry ice with a layer of cardboard to prevent freezer burn. Too much dry ice will freeze refrigerated foods and medicine in a typical ice chest. Never leave children unattended around dry ice - the carbon dioxide vapor may cause suffocation in confined areas and the ice can burn unprotected skin. Dry ice will transform from a solid to a gas at a rate of five to 10 pounds every 24 hours.

What can you tell me about portable generators?

The most important consideration is safety - improper use of portable generators can be deadly due to the carbon monoxide from the generator exhaust and the potential for electrical shock from improperly connecting the generator to a home wiring system. Portable generators should never be used indoors, in an attached garage or near windows and doors. Individual appliances should be plugged into the generator using appropriately sized, outdoor-rated cords.

If you plan to connect a generator to your home wiring, first have an electrician install a transfer switch in accordance with National Electric Code requirements to prevent electricity from feeding back into electric lines. Failure to properly connect your generator to your house wiring could cause back feed on our power lines and endanger our line workers and others. Never plug a portable generator into an electrical outlet in your home.

If you decide a generator is right for you, determine how many appliances you will run at the same time and select your generator based on the total wattage required, including appliance motor start-up requirements.

Compare brands and models, determine where you will store the generator, and see your generator dealer for assistance selecting a model that is the right size for your needs. And remember, most portable generators will not run your central air conditioner or electric heat pump.

I rely on a sump pump to keep my basement dry. What can I do to prepare for an outage?

You may want to check out one of the battery backup sump pump systems available that rely on a rechargeable 12-volt marine battery, or you can plug the sump pump into a portable generator following the safety precautions described above. There are also systems that use municipal household water pressure to operate and are designed to work during power outages. Your plumber or a local retailer can help you select and install the right equipment.

Common Terms Used in the Utility Industry

Circuit or Feeder
An overhead line on poles or underground cable that carries power from substation to customers. Circuit, feeder and distribution lines are terms used interchangeably.
Circuit Breaker
An electrical device that interrupts the current flow to a circuit when it exceeds a predetermined value. A circuit breaker is used to de-energize a circuit and can be set or programmed with various protection schemes to minimize damage to lines and equipment. Circuit breakers are designed to be re-closed after a current interruption.
Distribution Line
A distribution line is a medium-voltage (2,001 volts to 46,000 volts) overhead line that carries power from the substation to customer service areas. Some distribution lines are underground cables.
An electrical device that interrupts the current flow to a circuit when it exceeds a predetermined value. A fuse is used to de-energize a circuit to minimize damage to lines and equipment. Fuses can interrupt current only one time and must be replaced in order to energize the circuit it protects.
An insulator is a device made of special material that supports and separates energized lines and equipment from non-energized parts to prevent unwanted current flow. Insulators support overhead lines or cables on utility poles. An insulator may also support energized conductors and equipment in cabinets and inside substations.
Kilowatt (KW)
An electrical quantity of energy that represents one thousand watts of power.
Megawatt (MW)
An electrical quantity of energy that represents one million watts of power.
A device that plugs into a meter socket to measure the consumption of energy by the customer in kilowatt-hours.
Most power generation is three-phase and therefore needs three individual wires for each phase to convey it over distance to the end user.
Power Plant
A facility that converts fuel such as gas, coal, oil, nuclear or wind into an electrical energy (power).
Service Line
A service line is a lower-voltage (up to 2,000 volts) overhead conductor that carries power from the step-down transformer on the distribution line to a small-industrial, commercial or residential customer. This overhead conductor is the last connection from the utility to the meter on the customer’s premises. Service lines could be an underground cable.
A power distribution center that steps down transmission voltages (46,001 volts to 750,000 volts) to a primary distribution voltage (2,001 volts to 46,000 volts) with power transformers. Most circuits (distribution lines) radiate from this center toward customers.
A device that steps voltage down from a higher voltage or up to a higher voltage depending on use (i.e. steps the voltage down from a primary distribution voltage of 7,200 volts to 120/240 volts for residential use).
Transmission Line
A transmission line is a bare, uninsulated high-voltage (46,001 volts to 750,000 volts) overhead line that carries power from power plants to substations or power distribution centers. Some transmission lines are underground cables.
The basic unit for measuring energy or power in the utility industry.