Dominion prepares for winter
Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Dominion Energy officials want the public to know the deadly electrical dangers winter storms can bring. The utility company also wants the public to understand what to do to stay safe in different situations, reporting outages and how Dominion responds to them.
“We want to make sure everybody understands the inherent hazards of electricity,” said Mike Powers, the manager of safety and training for electric transmission and distribution for Dominion Energy.
One of those instances comes when someone gets into an accident, or comes across an accident, while driving, and power lines are on the car.
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Powers said people, barring a life-or-death situation such as a vehicle fire, should remain in the car, because the tires on the car will insulate you from electricity.
“If it got down to a life and death situation, and you had to get out of the car,” Powers said, “what you would want to do, then, is open the door and then jump out and land with your feet together. You never want to touch the car and the ground at the same time, because it creates a hazardous potential for the electricity to be played through you, and then you want to keep your feet together.”
Trees or limbs on power lines pose another hazard for people, and for crews working to restore power. Winter storms tend to be worse for electrical outages, Powers said, due to the ice and additional weight on trees and limbs that cause them to fall onto power lines.
Powers cautioned people to stay at least 30 feet away from power lines at all times, and in particular, when they fall due to a winter storm.
“Winter storms particularly, the trees get loaded down with ice,” Powers said. “They can fall down on our lines and cause our lines to come down, break our equipment, so you want to stay away from those and just call us, and we can get our linemen out there and our servicemen out there to get it repaired as quickly as possible.”
While the weather is nice, Powers said for people to keep an eye out for overhead power lines to keep ladders away from them, and if power lines are underground, call 811 before trying to dig anything.
Dominion Energy recommends people prepare for winter weather and the possibility of an electrical outage by doing the following:
- Charging all electronic devices and rechargeable batteries
- Bookmark the Dominion Energy website (dom.com) to report outages
- Be ready with snow removal equipment and rock salt to melt ice and sand to improve traction
- Protect sensitive electronics with surge protectors or unplug them
- Turn off major appliances like heat pumps and water heaters
For those with generators, he said people should have those hooked up properly before using them.
“The easiest, simplest way to do it is plug that piece of equipment … directly to the generator,” Powers said, “and not try to plug it in through your outlets of your house.”
He also recommended people hire a licensed electrician to hook up a generator properly.
Powers said Dominion also works with first responders to assist them in responding to any power-related incidents, and noted that Dominion linemen go through a 56-month training program to ensure they have the right equipment and do the right things to keep themselves and the public safe.
“The power may have been out a day or so,” Powers said. “They’re out there trying to clean things up. If there’s downed lines around them, they may be trying to clean brush all around it.
Dominion uses technology such as drones, helicopters and electronic collection tools to help with restoring power.
Matt Adams, an energy assistance outreach coordinator for Dominion, offered tips for people to keep their electrical bills down in the winter, such as sealing up air gaps in their homes.
“It puts them at risk for exposure,” Adams said, “and we really don’t want that to happen to any of our customers. We want to do everything we can to ensure their power stays on whether through energy efficiency to keep the bill low, so they can better manage paying it, or offering assistance — that might be through state assistance … or our Energy Share program.”
Bonita Billingsley Harris, a media representative for Dominion, said safety is at the heart of Dominion’s work and its response to winter weather that affects power.
“Electricity, you take it for granted when it’s working properly, when it’s safe, when it’s quiet and you flip the switch and the light comes on.” she said. “But if a storm happens and things are out of whack, we just want to make sure that everyone stays safe and knows to stay away from downed power lines.”
Dominion has a downed power line safety video online: go to www.dom.com, click on Outages and click on Downed Power Lines. People who see downed power lines are asked to call 911 first and then report it to Dominion Energy at 866-DOM-HELP. Outages can be reported to 866-DOM-HELP, on Dominion Energy’s website at dom.com or through its app, available on both Android and Apple devices.