"During severe storms, our first priority is to correct potentially life- threatening situations, such as downed power lines or hospitals without power," says Scott A. Cisel, president, Illinois Energy Delivery. "We then implement carefully designed power restoration plans focused on getting power back on for the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time."
He adds that the safety of the public and the crews working to restore power is the most critical priority. 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 provide ongoing service restoration updates to public officials, the news media and customers. Ameren companies also have a system for alerting and mobilizing additional line and service crews from utilities owned by Ameren and from utility companies close enough to Ameren Illinois companies' service territories but in areas not affected by the storm---calling on them for assistance.
For a full description of Ameren's restoration process and tips on how individuals can prepare for service disruptions, 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:
• At all times, stay clear of downed power lines and always call if you see downed lines. 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 most major outages are caused by bad weather, start by developing shelter plans for severe storm and tornado 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 storm.
• 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 (avoid using candles, lanterns or oil lamps due to the fire risk); extra garage and house keys so that you aren't locked out of your home or garage by lack of energy flowing to electrically powered automated systems; 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 protector.
• Then, 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!
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. The Ameren numbers are 888-672-5252 (AmerenCILCO), 888-789-2477 (AmerenCIPS), and 800-755-7000 (AmerenIP).
• 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 nearly $19 billion, Ameren through its subsidiaries, serves 2.4 million electric and nearly one million natural gas customers in a 64,000- square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri.
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