How Do I Report Power Failure?

A power failure, also known as a power outage or blackout, occurs when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. This can be caused by issues with power stations, damage to power lines, severe weather, or other problems with the electrical grid infrastructure. Power failures can range from small localized outages to widespread blackouts affecting entire cities or regions.

It’s important to report power outages promptly for several reasons. The electric company relies on customer reports to know where outages are occurring and send repair crews to fix them. The more detailed information they receive on outage locations, the faster they can pinpoint issues and restore power. Reporting outages also provides outage data the company can analyze to improve reliability. Additionally, some customers like elderly or disabled rely on electricity for medical devices, so it’s crucial to alert authorities to their needs. Reporting outages helps get your power restored quickly while assisting the overall community.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. electricity customers experienced an average of nearly 6 hours of power interruptions in 2020, so outages are a common occurrence that should be reported.

Check if the Outage is Just in Your Home

The first step when you lose power is to check if the outage is just within your home or part of a more widespread outage. Start by looking at the breaker panel to see if any breakers have tripped – if so, flip them back on to restore power.

Next, try turning on lights and appliances in various rooms to pinpoint where power is out. Also check with neighbors to see if they are experiencing an outage too. If it’s an issue isolated to just your home, the problem is likely with your electrical wiring, a tripped breaker, or an appliance/device overload. But if your whole block or neighborhood is dark, that indicates a larger outage that needs to be reported.

Some signs it’s just an in-home issue:

  • Some rooms/appliances have power, while others are out
  • Neighbors confirm they still have electricity
  • Flipping a breaker switch restores power

Contact the Electric Company

When you notice a power outage affecting your home or business, the first step is to contact your electric company to report the issue. Most electric companies have a dedicated phone number for outage reporting that is different than their general customer service line.

According to, you can call 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877) to report a power outage 1. Have your account information ready to provide details like your name, address, and account number. This will help the utility company identify the outage location and dispatch crews more efficiently.

In some cases, the utility company may already be aware of outages in your area. But it’s still important to call and provide your specifics so they can log and track the outage. The more information customers provide, the better the electric company can isolate the issue and estimate repair times.

Report Details About the Outage

When you contact the electric company to report a power outage, be prepared to provide key details about the outage. This will help the utility provider pinpoint the source of the problem and dispatch crews more efficiently.

First, specify the exact location of the outage. Provide as much detail as possible, including the street address, cross streets, landmarks, etc. Let them know if it is isolated to your home or business or if it appears to be impacting a wider area.

Next, report the time the outage began. Be as precise as you can about when the power first went out. This helps narrow down when the issue started and provides a timeline for troubleshooting efforts.

If known, explain the suspected cause of the power failure. Details like hearing a loud noise before the outage or seeing sparks and flashes can assist line crews in diagnosing problems. Mention any recent weather events or electrical issues that may have contributed.

Providing clear and thorough information upfront ensures the most efficient response. However, if any new details come to light during the outage, do not hesitate to call back and update your report.

Ask for Estimated Repair Time

After reporting the power outage, be sure to inquire about the cause and when power may be restored. The utility company likely has an estimated time frame based on whether the outage is localized or widespread, and what repairs or issues need to be addressed.

worker repairing damaged power lines after a storm

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average power outage duration for U.S. electricity customers was 5.8 hours per customer in 2018 [1]. However, outages can last much longer depending on the severity of damage to power infrastructure.

Ask the utility representative if there is a crew already assigned to assess the issue in your area. They may be able to provide a more accurate estimated restoration time based on the cause. Make sure to get the representative’s direct contact information so you can follow up if power is not restored as initially stated.

Having an estimated time frame can help you plan ahead while waiting for power to return. You’ll know whether to seek alternate accommodations, when to check back in, and how to prioritize consumption of refrigerated/frozen foods to avoid spoilage.

Update Contact Info if Needed

It’s important to keep your contact information like phone number and email address updated with your electric company. That way they can send notifications and updates if there are extended outages in your area. Many utilities have online account portals where you can login and update your profile. Otherwise, you may need to call customer service to update your information. Providing current contact details allows the electric company to reach you with outage status updates, estimated repair times, and alerts if any actions are required on your end. With up-to-date contact info, you’ll stay informed on when power is estimated to be restored in your neighborhood.

For example, Duke Energy has an online Outage Alerts system where customers can provide an email address and phone number to get notifications about outages affecting their home or business. This direct communication can give peace of mind during an outage so you know when power may return.

Consider Getting a Generator

For areas that experience frequent or long power outages, having a backup generator can provide peace of mind. According to the New York Times article “Backup Power: A Growing Need, if You Can Afford It“, sales of home generators have increased in recent years, but still only an estimated 6% of U.S. homes have them. Portable generators can provide backup power to run essential appliances and electronics during an outage. However, generators must be used properly to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure to only operate a generator outdoors in a well-ventilated area.

Stay Safe During an Outage

During a power outage, it’s important to take precautions to stay safe. According to the Red Cross [1], you should use flashlights instead of candles to prevent fires. If you must use candles, keep them away from anything flammable and never leave them unattended. The Red Cross also recommends limiting refrigerator use to avoid food spoilage. Only open the fridge when necessary and avoid opening the freezer. Make sure to turn off stoves, ovens, and other appliances to prevent fires when the power comes back on unexpectedly.

If you rely on medical devices powered by electricity, call your medical provider immediately for guidance. According to [2], register with your utility company if you require power for medical devices. When reporting an outage, notify them of your need for electricity-dependent medical devices.

Be Prepared for Future Outages

Having an emergency kit ready can help you get through power outages safely and comfortably. The Red Cross recommends having the following supplies in a kit in case of an extended outage:

  • Flashlights or headlamps with extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio and clock
  • Bottled water and non-perishable foods
  • Manual can opener
  • Battery packs to charge cell phones
  • First aid kit

It’s also a good idea to have battery backups for critical medical devices in your home. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can keep computers and other electronics running for a short time during an outage. Gas generators can provide backup power to your home, but should be installed professionally and operated cautiously.

Having an emergency plan for all family members can help reduce panic and confusion if the lights go out. Make sure everyone knows where to find flashlights and understands safety precautions during an outage. Preparing an outage kit and emergency plan can give you peace of mind the next time the power goes out.


Reporting power outages quickly to the electric company is crucial to restoring power safely and efficiently. As shown, outages can have major economic, social, and personal impacts on households and businesses. By contacting the utility provider right away with details about the outage, you help them mobilize repair crews and respond effectively.

It’s also important for customers to be prepared for outages by having emergency kits ready and considering a generator or backup power. Advance planning and readiness can mitigate outage impacts and keep your family or business functioning when the lights go out. By reporting outages promptly and making preparations, we can work together with utility companies to minimize disruption and stay safe during power failures.

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