What to Do During an Outage
Know How to Stay Safe
Power outages can come from a variety of causes — anything from car crashes and animals to severe weather. Outages can occur on the brightest of sunny days and during our sudden, and sometimes severe, Central Texas thunderstorms.
At Austin Energy, the safety of our crews and customers is our utmost concern.
Call 9-1-1 if you have a medical emergency or your life is at risk. Do not wait for your power to be turned back on.
Follow these tips to stay safe during power outages:
Avoid downed power lines
Knowing the hazards of downed power lines could save your life or the life of someone else.
- Always assume a downed power line is live.
- Never touch anything or anyone in contact with a power line.
- Stay at least 35 feet away from any downed lines.
- Be aware that limbs, fences, hoses, playsets, and other structures near you can become energized by a downed power line.
- Call 512-322-9100 to report downed power lines and learn more about how to stay safe when a power line is down.
If safe, check your breakersThere’s a chance your power outage could be caused by a blown fuse or a tripped circuit. If you have checked your breakers and are still without power, or you can’t check your breakers, report the outage online or call 512-322-9100.
Get flashlights or battery-operated lanternsBattery-operated lights are safer than candles and kerosene lanterns that can cause fires and fumes. Keep a few flashlights on hand, other than your cell phone, to make sure you have light when you need it.
Be safe with portable emergency generators
Portable generators can provide limited electrical power during an outage but they can be dangerous! If you buy or borrow a portable generator, make sure to follow the manufacturer instructions and keep your household safe.
- Never fuel or run a portable generator inside your home, place of business, or garage.
- Make sure the generator is equipped with a double-throw transfer switch that protects your equipment and prevents feedback on power lines.
- Ensure installation meets proper electrical requirements.
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed
Home refrigerators can keep food cold enough for a day or two without power, if the doors are kept closed.
- As a rule of thumb, 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer at the proper temperature (32° F) for three to four days.
- When in doubt, throw it out.
Turn off major appliancesWhen major appliances such as air conditioners and heat pumps are left on, they could overload electric lines once power is restored, causing a second outage. Leave just a few light switches on, including one or two exterior lights. Gas appliances may not work if the power is off because the equipment may require electricity for ignition or valve operation.
Do not attempt to assist emergency and utility crewsElectrical work is dangerous work. Let the pros handle repairs and restoration.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions about power outages, you may find your answer below.
What's causing my outage?
In general, there are three types of power outages you could experience at your home or business, including planned, unplanned, and controlled.
- Planned Outages — Planned outages are necessary to perform maintenance and repairs on electric infrastructure and equipment. Planned outages are also used for some scheduled tree trimming. Austin Energy will notify customers at least 48 hours in advance of any planned outages and restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
- Unplanned Outages — Unplanned outages can have many causes — severe weather, vehicle crashes, trees, animals, construction accidents or equipment failure. When an unplanned outage occurs, crews are ready to respond and restore power as safely and quickly as possible. Find out more on how Austin Energy restores power.
- Controlled Outages - Statewide Grid Events — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the statewide electric grid. When electricity use gets too close to the amount of available generation, that can strain the statewide grid and lead to an emergency situation. ERCOT has three emergency levels that help keep power flowing. The highest level calls for controlled outages to prevent a statewide blackout.
What do I do if a member of my family relies on a ventilator or other medical equipment?
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have a medical emergency or your life is at risk. Do not wait for your power to be turned back on.
- The City of Austin offers a Medically Vulnerable Registry. If someone in your household has a long-term disease or critical illness, you may be eligible for the City’s registry of medically vulnerable customers and receive special support services.
- The registry does not affect the duration of a power outage or when power is restored.
What should I do if I see a downed power line?
You should never approach a downed power line or a limb in contact with power line. Always treat downed power lines as live.
- During an outage, stay at least 35 feet away from any downed line.
- If you see a downed line, call Austin Energy at 512-322-9100.
- If you are trapped by a downed line — in your car, in an out-building or other structure, call 911.
What is Austin Energy doing about trees that cause power outages?
An important part of Austin Energy’s electric system maintenance is tree trimming. Weather and trees cause more than one in three outages in our area. Each year, hundreds of miles of Austin Energy power lines are scheduled for tree trimming, helping keep our community safer and more ready for storms.
- During windy and stormy weather, swaying and broken tree branches can rub against wires or bring down power lines.
- In extreme cold, ice adds heavy weight and brings wires in contact with trees which may also lead to down power lines and power outages.
How does Austin Energy communicate about widespread and long-lasting outages?
Austin Energy communicates with customers before, during and after power outages. If weather predictions show the potential for widespread and long-lasting outages, Austin Energy uses various ways to get the information out to the community. You can stay informed by:
- Tuning into local news on radio, TV or online.
- Visiting Austin Energy on Facebook and Twitter.
- Bookmarking the Current Conditions page.
- Signing up for Outage Alerts.
- Visiting the Outage Map.
- Ensuring Austin Energy has your current cell phone number and email address in your COA Utilities account notifications settings and outage alert preferences, or by calling 512-494-9400.
How does Austin Energy decide whose power is turned on first?We first restore power to customers who provide essential services to the community, such as hospitals, police stations, and fire departments. Then we repair damage that will return power to the greatest number of customers in the least amount of time until power is restored to everyone. Above all, safety is our top priority when making power restoration decisions.
Why did the power come back on in my neighbor's house, but not mine?You may see a neighbor's lights come back on while you are still without power. Sometimes, not all circuits are restored at the same time — as different parts of your neighborhood may be connected to different circuits. Or a restored customer’s service comes directly from a primary line, which is restored first, while your service may be served off a secondary line. There may also be a problem with your individual service line or your meter.
A utility vehicle is parked down the street. Can I ask the crew for an update?
No. Please stay away from crews working to restore power.
- Lineworkers have dangerous jobs and there are often hazards that you may not see. Please allow crews to work safely and efficiently without interruption.
- Be assured that Austin Energy lineworkers are highly trained professionals who are there to restore your power. They work quickly, but their top priority is safety — including yours.
Why did an Austin Energy vehicle leave my neighborhood before my power was restored?
If you see a utility vehicle leave your neighborhood and your power has not yet been restored, it may be because multiple crews work on different aspects of a problem. For example, there may be repairs required at different locations. Also, smaller crews may leave without restoring power if the problem is so large that more workers are needed to fix the issue. You may also see a crew leaving your neighborhood because they must check or “patrol” a long section of the power line — one that may stretch out to another neighborhood — before restoring power.
We make every effort to update our estimated time of restoration to reflect the up-to-the-minute status of the outage.