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Ameren Illinois Utilities are Prepared for Severe Winter Weather, Offers Tips to Help Customers When Storms Occur

PEORIA, Ill., SPRINGFIELD, Ill., and DECATUR, Ill., Nov. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- With the onset of colder weather and the ever present threat of winter storms, the Ameren Illinois utilities are prepared for severe weather and are advising customers to ready themselves for the possibility of power outages.

"Safety is our first and foremost concern throughout the year, but it takes on added significance when severe storms strike," said Stan Ogden, vice president of Customer service and Public Relations for the Ameren Illinois utilities (AmerenCILCO, AmerenCIPS and AmerenIP).

"The most important safety rule is to stay clear of downed power lines and always call your Ameren Illinois utility or '911' if you see downed lines. Do not venture out in the dark because you won't be able to see a power line that could still be energized and dangerous. Stay clear of brush, shrubs and downed trees that may hide downed lines," Ogden said.

Ogden added, "When severe storms cause power outages, our first priority is to correct potentially life-threatening situations, such as downed power lines or hospitals without power. We then implement power restoration plans focused on restoring power for the greatest number of customers in the shortest length of time."

Ogden said that when there is the threat of severe weather, the key steps take by the Ameren Illinois utilities include:

  -- Constantly monitor weather conditions, watching for any changes that
     may impact service.
  -- Place Ameren Illinois utility employees on alert.
  -- Consider staging field personnel in preparation for storm restoration
     work. Decisions on staging are based on evolving weather conditions.

"When there is a major storm, we immediately assess damage and respond with the appropriate personnel, equipment and other resources to restore service as quickly and safely as possible," Ogden said.

"Our planning and response efforts are designed to minimize the length of customer outages. Storm preparedness is critically important to our ability to meet the challenges presented by a major storm. The Ameren Illinois utilities are ready for severe weather."

In restoring service, crews begin with main lines -- those that serve thousands of customers. Then they move to lines that can affect hundreds; secondary lines that affect dozens; and finally to service lines at individual homes and businesses.

Throughout the restoration process, the Ameren Illinois utilities maintain contact with state and local emergency management agencies and designated staff that provides ongoing service restoration updates to public officials, the news media and customers. The Ameren Illinois utilities also utilize a system to alert and mobilize additional line and service crews from the three Ameren Illinois utilities and from other utility companies in areas not affected by the storm, calling on them for assistance.

For a full description of the Ameren Illinois utilities' restoration process and tips on how customers can prepare for service disruptions, visit the Ameren Web site at http://www.ameren.com/ (select "Outage Information" from the left-hand menu, select Ameren Illinois Outage Information and then select "Ameren's Storm Response" from the left-hand menu). Customers can learn more about power outage situations by visiting selecting "Outage Information" and then such menu options as the "Outage Map" and "My Electric Outage."

The measures customers should take to prepare for a power outage or loss of natural gas service are similar to those needed 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 conditions.
  -- If any member of your family has a medical condition, plan and make
     arrangements to have that person's special needs met in the event
     electricity is not available for an extended period of time during a
  -- 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:
      -- Emergency telephone numbers; flashlights and fresh batteries (avoid
         using candles, lanterns or oil lamps due to the fire risk); extra
         garage and house keys; 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
         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, be sure to unplug or protect
     sensitive computer and electronic equipment with a high-quality surge
  -- When severe weather is predicted, make certain your cell phone is fully
     charged. Also, remember that cordless landline telephones will not
     function in the event of a power outage.
  -- If your power goes out, 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 Illinois utility at any time, 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 Illinois utility numbers are 888-672-5252
     (AmerenCILCO), 888-789-2477 (AmerenCIPS) and 800-755-7000 (AmerenIP).

The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 800,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.

Outage Information Resources

Ameren Illinois utility customers can access information about electricity service outages on the Ameren Web site (http://www.ameren.com/) as follows:

  -- Go to the "Storm Center" in the left-hand menu and select "Outage
  -- Then select "Ameren Illinois Outage Information."
      -- By selecting the "Outage Map," you can immediate see the areas that
         are affected by outages and the number of customers without power
         in the affected areas. Outages are listed by zip codes.
      -- Select "My Electric Outage" to learn more about the outage
         affecting you. If you have not already done so, you will need to
         take a few moments to create a user ID and password. It is a good
         idea to do this before a storm occurs. With this service, you often
         can determine the outage cause and estimated restoration time.
      -- "Power Out? Call Us" provides complete contact information in the
         event of an outage. Review and print out this information before a
         storm occurs.
      -- "Storms and Emergencies" provides valuable customer information in
         dealing with severe storms.
      -- "Outage Restoration Trend" shows a graph to help customers
         understand the progress being made to restore power.
      -- "Emergency Preparedness" provides a link to Ready America. Here
         customers will learn how to assemble a storm emergency kit, how to
         make an emergency plan and how to stay informed.

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois utilities

CONTACT: Erica Abbett, +1-618-236-4329, or Natalie Hemmer,
+1-217-424-7541, or Neal Johnson, +1-309-677-5284, or Leigh Morris,
+1-217-535-5228, all for Ameren Illinois Utilities

Web site: http://www.ameren.com/