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Power Outages FAQ

Occasionally, you may experience a temporary loss of power due to weather or other circumstances. Choose from the commonly-asked power and outage questions below to plan ahead, so you won't be left in the dark.

To print the answers to these questions, select "File" from your browser menu, and choose "Print".

General Questions

Q1. What do I do if the power goes out?

A. Call us at 1-800-611-1911 anytime your electricity goes off for longer than a few minutes.

If any of your lights or electrical appliances are still working, you've blown a fuse or tripped a circuit breaker. Replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker to restore power to the affected areas of your home. Visit Circuit Breakers & Fuses for instructions on how to reset your circuit breaker or replace fuses.

Before you call us about a power outage, check if your neighbors' lights are off as well. It's very helpful if you can let us know if the power outage affects more than just your home.

If the outage is widespread, our phone lines may be busy when you call. Please be patient. Your information is important to us, since it may be our only report from your neighborhood at the time.

If you have noticed any fallen power lines, call our emergency number immediately at 1-800-611-1911. STAY AWAY and keep others away from downed lines; they are dangerous and can cause serious injuries. For more information, visit Power Line Safety.  

To find more information on Power Outages that can help you prepare for and understand these events.

Q2. I'm having problems with my television reception. I also have problems getting my favorite AM radio station. What are some possible causes?

A. You may be suffering "Radio and Television Interferences" (RTVI), which may also be affecting your neighbors' radios and televisions.

There are potential sources of interference all over your house.

Heating pads, door bell transformers, photocell light switches, fish tanks and pumps, baby wipe warmers, touch lamps, dimmer switches, and home lighting photocell switches are just a few of the many possible sources of RTVI. For more information, visit RTVI Request.

Q3. Is there anything I can do if I suspect I may have a Radio/Television Interference (RTVI) problem?

A. Here is a simple test to check your home for RTVI:

Go to your main circuit breaker box.

Listen to the interference on a battery-operated radio.

Turn the main breaker off.

If you follow this procedure and the noise goes away, then the RTVI problem is coming from your home.

If there is still interference, follow these additional steps:

Turn the circuit break main on.

Wait for the interference to start again.

Follow this same procedure for each of the sub-breakers, one at a time.

Once you pinpoint which circuit the device causing the interference is plugged into, perform these final steps to resolve the problem:

Turn all the breaks to "on," except the one that stopped the noise.

Find out what electrical equipment is connected to that circuit by checking the doorbell, fish tanks, heating pads, electric blankets, dimmer switches, sonic pest control devices, and other appliances.

If you follow all of these steps and still have an RTVI problem, the cause may be in your neighbor's home.

Q4. What if I still have a problem? What should I do?

A. If you've performed the RTVI, checked above, and are still experiencing interference problems, call us at 1-800-655-4555 for help locating the source.

Be Prepared: Before an Outage

Q1. What supplies do I need to prepare for an outage?

A. Make sure you have emergency supplies in a place you can easily find them. Stock your outage kit with flashlights and batteries, a battery-operated radio, a manual can opener and canned food. Find more information about  Power Outages that can help you prepare for and understand these events.

Q2. Is there anything I need to know how to do?

A. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the location of the fuse box or circuit breaker in or outside of your home. You should also learn how to reset a tripped circuit or change a blown fuse. Practice manually opening electric garage doors and gates so you can do it safely and easily during an outage. Find out where you can buy blocks of ice (most grocery stores carry them) to keep food in refrigerators and freezers cold during an extended outage.

Q3. Do I need to take any precautions with appliances?

A. Unplug electronics like your computer, TV, and DVD player. This could help prevent a sudden surge of electricity from damaging them when power is restored.

During an Outage: What to Do Now

Q1. If the weather is cold outside, what should I do to stay warm?

A. If it begins to cool down in your home, cover windows with blankets or cardboard to help prevent drafts. Identify the most insulated room in advance; that's where you and your family can best stay warm.

Q2. How should I set my thermostat during an outage?

A. Turn your thermostat to low and turn off the circuit breaker for your water heater. This will reduce a high demand for electricity when the power returns, and help prevent an overload that can cause the circuit breaker to trip again.

Q3. What should I do with my lights during an outage?

A. Set all of the lights in the off position except for one. Leaving a light on will let you know when electricity has been restored.

Only As Needed: Rotating Outages

Q1. What is a rotating outage?

A. A rotating outage is a temporary controlled electric outage conducted by the director at the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) that lasts approximately one hour, depending on circumstances. A utility manages and rotates the outages to protect the integrity of the overall electric system. 

Q2. Why would you need to resort to rotating outages?

A. Rotating outages can become necessary when the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) declares a statewide Stage 3 Emergency (see glossary below). Under these circumstances, without rotating power outages on a relatively small scale, a widespread disturbance to the electric grid could occur, which would lead to uncontrolled, large-scale outages.

Q3. How will I be notified about a Stage 3 Emergency declaration?

A. As soon as the Stage 3 Emergency is declared, we will contact the news media, especially radio and television stations, which are encouraged to broadcast the news immediately. Because we may have as few as 10 minutes after a Stage 3 Emergency is declared before we begin rotating outages, individual notifications are not possible. You can also contact us at 1-800-611-1911 to find out whether your neighborhood is part of a current controlled outage. 

Q4. How does a rotating outage work?

A. We have identified the circuits available for use in rotating outages according to California Public Utilities Commission rules. A circuit is a set of electrical lines that supply power to a combination of residential and/or commercial customers within a given geographical area. These circuits have been arranged into groups. The amount of power the California Independent System Operator designates for curtailment will determine the number of groups that are interrupted at any one time. The groups will be interrupted, as operating conditions permit, and each outage is expected to last about one hour. At the end of the hour, service will be restored to the affected groups and the next groups on the list will be interrupted to maintain the amount of load requested by the CAISO. Once a group has been used in a rotating outage, it is moved to the bottom of the list.

Q5. How are circuits selected?

A. Most of our circuits are subject to these rotating outages. Only those circuits that serve “Essential Use Customers” who provide critical public health, safety, and security services (such as large hospitals and police stations) are exempted from these outages. All remaining circuits are arranged into groups that represent all customer types (i.e., residential, commercial and industrial) and are dispersed throughout our 50,000-square-mile service area.

Q6. Is there any way I can find out when I might be affected?

A. Your Rotating Outage Group is located on your bill. Summary Bill customers will find this information in the "Details" portion of their bill. As soon as the California Independent System Operator notifies us of a pending outage, we post the information on our website.

Q7. What is the difference between a “group” and a “block”?

A. Although they are often used interchangeably in the media, these terms have distinct meanings we use to refer to the curtailment of normal electrical service. "Group" applies to Stage 3 Emergencies (see glossary below) when clusters of customers are subject to rotating outages. Rotating outage groups are designated with a letter and 3 numbers, for example, A001. "Block" is used in relation to our interruptible rate options for large commercial and industrial customers. Customers on these rates receive lower energy and demand charges in return for being interrupted at our request. When a Stage 2 Emergency (see glossary below) is declared, blocks are interrupted to meet the load specified. Blocks are designated with letters only.

Q8. Why can’t you get someone else’s Rotating Outage Group?

A. To protect your privacy and safety we treat your Rotating Outage Group as confidential information. This practice makes it harder to perform illegal acts such as burglaries when your area is affected by a rotating outage. For the same reason we do not provide Rotating Outage Groups to you for other customers. If you want to stay abreast of the rotating outage status of another customer, such as a relative or your child's school, ask them for their Rotating Outage Group, which they may share at their discretion.

Q9. How long does a rotating outage last?

A. A rotating outage lasts approximately one hour, depending on circumstances.

Q10. If my group is first on the list, does that mean that I will always be the first to lose power?

A. No. We track the order of the groups of circuits that have been interrupted and rotate among them to ensure that the same group will not always be first and that the impact to any group is minimized. Once a customer group has been restored, it is placed at the end of the list.

Q11. Could power be out at my house when a neighbor across the street still has electric service?

A. Yes. It's possible for neighbors to be on different circuits. Circuits do not necessarily align with streets, neighborhoods, or community boundaries.

Q12. What should I do if my power is out for substantially more than an hour?

A. The first thing you should do is find out whether your neighbors have electrical service. If neighbors are also without power, call our emergency services at 1-800-611-1911 and we will send a worker out to investigate. If the neighbors do have service, you might have an isolated electrical problem in your home or business.

Q13. Do I get a bill credit for having power cut off during a rotating outage?

A. No. The California Public Utilities Commission rules prohibit utilities from offering any discounts due to emergency situations, including rotating outages.

Q14. What about a person who requires life support or other special equipment? Will his/her power be shut off too?

A. We cannot guarantee uninterrupted service to any customer; however, we do keep track of all customers who have applied for, and been certified as, "critical care" customers (those who cannot be without electric service for more than 2 hours) pursuant to our Medical Baseline program.

Q15. Could a rotating outage continue into the night?

A. Yes. It is possible that a rotating outage could occur during the night. A Stage 3 Emergency (see glossary below) could occur at any time. We recognize the safety concerns posed by darkened streets and intersections and we encourage everyone to be particularly careful during this time.

Q16. What can people do to stay safe during rotating outages?

Minimize driving in an outage area, if at all possible. Anyone who must drive through a controlled outage area should be particularly careful at intersections controlled by traffic lights, since the lights may not be functioning. These intersections should be treated as four-way stops.

Turn off all appliances, machinery and equipment in use when the power goes out. Leave one light on to indicate when the power has been restored. This will prevent injuries that could occur if machinery and equipment were to suddenly restart. It will also prevent circuits from overloading when power is restored.

Rotating Outage Glossary

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the non-profit agency that controls 75% of the state's transmission grid and secures power supplies for most of the state's consumers. The CAISO continually monitors the state's electric system. When a significant imbalance between the supply and demand for electricity occurs, CAISO may issue a Restricted Maintenance Alert, a Warning, or a Stage 1, 2, or 3 Emergency. The conditions for each level of notification are:

Restricted Maintenance: Declared when routine maintenance on transmission lines or power plants could threaten grid reliability.

Alert: Activated one day before. CAISO may require extra resources to avoid electrical emergency.

Warning: Activated an hour ahead of when there may be a shortfall. Requests for conservation issued. Voluntary load reduction programs may be triggered at this point.

Emergency Stage 1: Concern about sustaining required operating reserves between 6% and 7% (Continuously recalculated) stronger request for conservation

Emergency Stage 2: Operating reserves less than 5% Indicates reserves are forecast to be below established criteria and requires ISO intervention in the market

Emergency Stage 3: Spinning reserve portion of operation reserves forecast to fall below 3%. Issue notice of potential load interruptions to utilities

*Transmission Emergencies – Many emergencies are tied to electric supply and operation reserve levels within the balancing authority. However, some emergencies are declared as a result of transmission line overloads, losses, or limitations.

Source: CAISO Alert, Warning and Emergency Notices