Electricity travels from power plants to homes over a complex grid of lines and equipment. High-voltage lines move electricity from a generating plant to a substation, where the voltage is reduced so energy can travel over distribution systems. Electricity then goes over "primary lines" to "secondary lines," which distribute it throughout neighborhoods. It finally arrives at individual meters from transformers that feed service lines. (Visit www.ameren.com to see a diagram of the distribution system.)
In restoring electricity, crews begin with main lines--those that serve thousands of people. Then they move to lines that can affect hundreds; secondary lines that affect dozens; and finally to service lines at individual homes.
Throughout the restoration process, Ameren companies maintain contact with state and local emergency management agencies and designated company staff, who keep the news media and public officials up-dated on the status of restoration efforts.
For a full description of how to prepare for service disruptions during winter storms, check out the storm site on www.ameren.com. The measures you should take to prepare for a power outage or loss of natural gas service are similar to those you should take to prepare for any emergency situation. Here are some tips on dealing with winter storms:
• Because most major outages are caused by bad weather, start by developing shelter plans for severe storm and tornado conditions.
• Then, assemble a "storm kit" and store it in a secure, centrally located part of your house.
• Make sure all family members know where to find that kit. It should contain:
o Emergency telephone numbers; flashlights and fresh batteries; a battery- powered radio; a battery-powered or wind-up alarm clock; a supply of bottled water (one gallon per person per day); non-perishable foods that don't require heating; blankets, bedding or sleeping bags; a first-aid kit and medications; a hand-operated can opener; special items for infants, the elderly or family members with special needs; hand tools such as a screwdriver, scissors and duct tape; household items like plastic utensils, paper plates, waterproof matches and household bleach; identification and copies of important family documents.
• If your electric service is interrupted, check first with a neighbor to see if you are the only one without power. If you are the only one without service, check your panel box for a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse. If any breakers are in the "off" position or if a fuse is blown, you should investigate the problem.
• If you are still without power, or if others in your neighborhood are experiencing a power outage, call your Ameren company, 24 hours a day, seven days a week---and always call as soon as possible to report a downed line or natural gas odor!
The Ameren numbers are 888-672-5252 (AmerenCILCO), 888-789-2477 (AmerenCIPS), 800-755-7000 (AmerenIP) and 800-552-7583 (AmerenUE).
• Stay away from all downed lines, flooding and debris. Don't walk in standing water and don't venture out in the dark because you won't be able to see a power line that could still be energized and dangerous.
• Because Ameren companies have customers on almost every major line who need electricity to operate life-support equipment, the companies can't offer assurances that these customers will get their service restored any faster. If you have such equipment, you need to invest in private back-up power systems and develop alternative care plans to ensure safety and security. You should also register with Ameren's Medical Equipment Registry to make it easier for us to notify you in the event of a planned maintenance outage. Again, for more on this registry or for much more information on what to do during a storm, visit www.ameren.com.
With assets of more than $17 billion, Ameren through its subsidiaries, serves 2.3 million electric and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000- square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri.
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