At KEC, we take safety very seriously. In our industry, thousands are injured each year in electrical accidents and fires—often with fatal results. The vast majority of electrical accidents can be prevented if people understand the dangers and steps they can take to be safe around electricity. Please review the safety topics below to learn more.
Keep Food Safe: When In Doubt, Throw It Out!
Unfortunately, power outages do occur from time to time. It’s important to know how to keep your food safe during an outage. Use these tips from USDA to help minimize food loss and reduce your risk of illness.
Before a power outage:
- Keep refrigerator at 40° or below.
- Freeze items like fresh meat and poultry that you won’t use immediately.
- Keep freezer set to 0° or below.
- Group frozen foods to help items stay colder longer.
- If you anticipate an extended power outage, buy dry or block ice to keep the fridge and/or freezer cold.
During a power outage:
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed!
- If the doors stay closed during the length of the outage:
- A full freezer will hold its temperature for 48 hours.
- A refrigerator will keep food safe for four hours.
After a power outage:
- Check the temperature inside your refrigerator and/or freezer.
- If the temperatures are safe, the food should be safe to eat.
Foods that should be thrown out after an extended power outage:
- Meat, poultry or seafood products
- Milk, yogurt and other dairy products
- Cooked or sliced produce
- Eggs and egg products
- Soft and shredded cheese
- Opened baby formula
- Dough and cooked pasta
Power Outage Safety
Stay away from power lines on the ground. Always assume downed lines are energized even if the lines are sagging or broken.
Do not attempt to remove trees or limbs from lines.
Do not sit in an idling car in the garage to get warm. Never use a camp stove or charcoal grill indoors to generate heat.
Lower the thermostat to a minimum.
Turn off all appliances that were on when the power went out.
Leave an outside light on so repair crews will know when power is back on.
Have a battery-operated radio or TV. In the case of large outages, KEC notifies the media of the status of the outage.
Have a cell phone or inexpensive, basic phone available to make and receive calls during an outage. Many of the latest phone models do not work without power.
How Our Outage System Works
A power outage reported using our outage number is automatically matched to our computer database using the phone number you call from. If you're not calling from the phone number in our system you can enter the number tied to your KEC account or you can enter your KEC account number and still be automatically matched. The location of the outage then lights up on a map. This is why it is beneficial for KEC to have on file the phone number you are most likely to call from to report a power outage.
- Call KEC at 208.765.1200 (or 1.877.744.1055 after hours) to report a downed line or car accident with a KEC pole.
- Never touch or go near a downed power line. Always assume power lines are energized.
- Don’t touch anything that may be touching a downed wire, such as a car.
If your car crashes into a utility pole, your vehicle may be charged with electricity. If this is the case and you step out of the car, you will become the electricity’s path to the ground and could be electrocuted.
Make sure you:
- Stay in the car, and tell others to do the same.
- Call 911 and mention the accident involves a utility pole.
- Do not leave your vehicle until a utility professional has told you it is safe to do so.
The only circumstance under which you should exit the vehicle
is if it is on fire. If necessary:
- Jump clear of the vehicle with your feet together and without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time.
- Continue to “bunny hop” with your feet together to safety. Doing this will ensure that you are only one point of contact and will not have different strengths of electric current running from one foot to another, which can be deadly.
If you come upon an accident involving power lines, do not approach the accident scene.
If you see someone approaching, warn them to stay away.
Here's how we prepare for storms:
- Continually monitoring weather.
- Notifying staff to be available to work.
- Annually performing reliability improvements, including right-of-way maintenance.
Here's what you can do before your power goes out:
- Sign up for KEC's outage alerts by logging in to your account.
- Charge cell phones.
- Have a plan for your pets and livestock.
- If your water supply is dependent on electricity, fill your bathtub with water.
- Ensure smoke alarm batteries have been changed recently. Also, consider how an outage will affect home security systems, garage doors and sprinkler systems.
- If you have a medical need that relies on electricity, the Food and Drug Administration published Guidance on Home Use Devices, recommending that individuals dependent on a medical device establish a plan for responding to a power outage and maintain medical information, a list of emergency contacts, extra oxygen tanks, battery backups and contact information for transportation services.
- Assemble an emergency storm kit containing:
- Flashlights and fresh batteries.
- Battery-powered radio or TV and extra batteries.
- Bottled water (one gallon per person per day).
- Nonperishable foods.
- Blankets, bedding or sleeping bags.
- First-aid kit and prescription medications.
- Hand-operated can opener.
- Special items for infants, the elderly or family members with special needs.
- A variety of hand tools.
- Identification and copies of important family documents in a waterproof container.
- Cash (ATMs may be unavailable).
- Remember, power outages can be reported at 1.877.744.1055 or through our SmartHub app.
If you have a medical need that relies on electricity, here’s how we can help you during an outage:
- Sign up for KEC outage alerts. Log in to your account online or download the SmartHub app on your phone to stay connected with KEC.
- You can report power outages and electrical emergencies by calling 1.877.744.1055, using your online account or by using the SmartHub app.
Here’s how you can help us restore power to members quickly and safely:
- Always report a power outage or electrical emergency, don’t assume someone else will call.
- If you have a generator installed, please call us at 208.765.1200. For the safety of our employees and the public, we track where backup generators are installed.
The Food and Drug Administration published Guidance on Home Use Devices, recommending that individuals dependent on a medical device establish a plan for responding to a power outage and maintain medical information, a list of emergency contacts, extra oxygen tanks, battery backups and contact information for transportation services.
Below are some tips provided by ready.gov to making a power outage plan for those who rely on electricity for medical needs.
- Plan alternative ways to charge your mobile devices, and communication and assistive technology devices before disaster strikes.
- Plan how you will address your dependence on electricity. Tell your power company if you use oxygen- or mechanical ventilation. Be very clear about what you can expect from them in a power outage.
- Before disaster strikes, you may register with your power company. They may alert you when power will be restored in an unplanned outage and before a planned outage. This is particularly important if you use oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
- If you cannot be without power, plan for how you will obtain power backup. If possible, have backup battery, generator, solar or alternate electrical resources. Explore newer solutions, and also consider foot pumps and other simple tools that might suffice when nothing else works.
- Charge devices that will maintain power to your equipment during electric outages.
- Purchase extra batteries for power wheelchairs or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. Keep the batteries trickle charged at all times. Find out if you can charge your wheelchair or devices from a car or using rechargeable marine batteries. Make sure you assemble what you’ll need in advance.
- Backup chargers for a cell phone could include a hand-crank USB cell phone emergency charger, a solar charger, or a battery pack. Some weather radios have a built in hand crank charger.
- Backup chargers for a laptop or tablet could include a 12V USB adapter that plugs into a car, an inverter, or a battery jump pack with an USB port.
- Receive important information on a cell phone or smart phone. Sign up for emergency emails and text messages on your cell phone from your local government alert system.
- Plan how you are going to receive emergency information if you are unable to use a television, radio or computer. This may include having an adaptive weather alert system to alert you in the event of severe weather.
- Plan for medications that require refrigeration.
KEC has its crews on call 24 hours a day and ready to be dispatched throughout our service territory. The following are a few reminders and safety tips for winter storms.
For Cold Weather:
- Do not sit in an idling car in the garage to get warm. Never use a camp stove or charcoal grill indoors to generate heat.
- Consider opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer room air to circulate around the plumbing.
- Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat in your home set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
Power Outage Safety:
- Stay away from power lines on the ground. Always assume downed lines are energized even if the lines are sagging or broken. Call KEC at 1.877.744.1055 right away to report them.
- Do not attempt to remove trees or limbs from lines.
- In the case of large outages in rural/limited access areas where snow removal has not been consistent, members should be prepared for lengthy outages.
- When shoveling snow off the roof – look up and be sure there are no power lines above you.
- If you are able, keep your driveway plowed to help our crews have better access.
- Turn off all appliances that were on when the power went out.
- Leave an outside light on so repair crews will know when power is back on.
- Have a battery-operated radio or TV. In the case of large outages, KEC notifies the media of the status of the outage.
- Have a cell phone or inexpensive, basic phone available to make and receive calls during an outage. Many phone models do not work without power.
- Generators can cause a serious safety problem if improperly installed and could cause injury to utility workers and the general public. All backup generator installations must have a transfer switch installed in accordance with the requirements of the National Electric Code. Call the KEC office at 208.765.1200 for more information.
For more tips on how to develop a family emergency plan and what to include in an emergency storm kit, visit the American Red Cross website.
If a power outage does occur, please call the KEC outage line at 1.877.744.1055. Our outage management system tracks calls based on caller id. When calling in power outages KEC members should call from the phone number KEC has in its system to identify the location. If you aren’t sure which number we have in our system for you please call our office at 208.765.1200.
- High winds
- Ice or snow
- Farm equipment or vehicle contact with poles or wires
- Animals (squirrels, raccoons, birds, etc.)
- Trees and branches in contact with lines
- High power demand that causes overload
The following are some of the common questions (and answers) about power outages:
Why couldn’t you provide restoration estimates?
Generally, KEC includes estimated times of restoration on our outage map (www.kec.com/outage-map), when they are available. During severe storms such as this one, it is very difficult to make accurate estimates, especially when so many trees and poles are broken.
How do you determine where to restore power first?
During a storm, crews work to restore power to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible. In this case, crews worked to restore power to areas without broken poles first as it can take up to 10 hours to repair a broken pole.
Why doesn’t KEC put all the power lines underground?
Currently more than half of our power lines have been built underground. Almost all new construction is also built underground. Underground lines can be three times the cost of overhead lines. After the wind and snowstorms of 2015 KEC was awarded more than $10 million in special grant funding from FEMA to convert approximately 50 miles of our most problematic overhead lines to underground.
KEC is currently working to apply for additional FEMA funding to convert more lines to underground.
What is KEC doing to keep trees from falling on lines?
To minimize the risk of trees contacting our overhead lines, KEC has an aggressive vegetation management plan. We trim rights-of-way to provide for the minimum clearance distance of 30 feet, or 15 feet either side of the power line. We also ask members to call and report any trees they see close to our primary lines or dead trees that may fall on our lines. KEC will remove trees threatening our lines at no cost to landowners. KEC does not trim service lines (the line from KEC’s transformer to your house). That is the homeowner’s responsibility. We will come out at no charge and drop the service line so the member can trim service line trees safely.
Should I help your crews by cutting trees that have fallen on power lines?
If a tree has fallen into power lines on your property, please stay away and contact us as soon as possible. Downed power lines are dangerous. Never touch them. For safety’s sake, always assume that a fallen power line is live, and follow these guidelines:
- Avoid touching the downed line with your hand or an object, such as a stick, broom or pole.
- Avoid touching anything, such as a car, object or equipment, or anyone who is in contact with a fallen power line.
- Avoid driving over a fallen power line.
- Trees and water conduct electricity. Do not spray water at a live power line. You can become electricity’s path to the ground if you are touching water that touches electricity resulting in injury or death.
Where can I get updates during outages?
We encourage members to sign up for outage alerts by text or email using your SmartHub account. Remember to keep your contact information (phone and email) updated with us so we can notify you in the event of planned power outages. During large outages, updates are also available at: www.facebook.com/KootenaiElectric.
Additional Safety Information
The meter base is typically a rectangular metal box mounted near or on the outside of your home or business that the meter plugs into. Each meter base might look a little different. It belongs to the property owner and they are responsible for maintaining it in good serviceable order. If it’s damaged by weather or by any kind of accident, repair is the property owner’s responsibility. If you inspect your meter base and believe it needs repair, we encourage you to contact a licensed electrician. Alternatively, you can take a picture of your meter base and send it to KEC using the form below. KEC staff may be able to confirm those concerns or identify other issues. A damaged meter base can be a safety hazard for both members and KEC employees. Please note: the property owner is responsible for the meter base on their property. KEC does not accept responsibility for the meter base if you send information or images using the form below.
Trees are the number one cause of power outages and that’s why our right-of-way (ROW) or vegetation management program is such a critical component of maintaining the reliability of our system and preventing wildfires. KEC’s ROW program focuses on the identification and removal of hazardous trees as well as the pruning of vegetation that interferes with our distribution lines.
Our goal is to perform ROW trimming on each part of our system every seven years. The tree trimming cycle is selected to maintain required safety distances to power lines (any vegetation growth within 15 feet of overhead line conductors) with anticipated regrowth that will occur before the next trimming cycle. To meet our ROW goals, we currently have eight full-time contract crews working for us, an increase of five crews since the beginning of 2020. It’s also important to note that more than half of KEC power lines are underground and almost all newly constructed lines are put underground to help eliminate tree related power outages and mitigate risk of wildfires.
ROW crews trim and control vegetation for all overhead line segments working sequentially down the line, starting at the substation and moving down the spans to single lines. It is the member’s responsibility to maintain the service lines (pole to weatherhead). If scheduled, KEC crews can disconnect power to the service line so members may safely trim vegetation. Learn more above which equipment KEC owns and which equipment is the member’s responsibility.
While KEC has the authority to cut trees that grow within the power line ROW, we do not have the authority to cut those growing outside the ROW. For context, our typical ROW is 30 feet wide with the power line in the middle of it. Before removing a tree growing outside our ROW which threatens our power lines, landowner permission is needed. KEC makes this easy for landowners. All they need to do is say ‘yes’ and the tree will be removed at no cost to them. Landowners who are unwilling to allow KEC to remove trees on their property which threaten our power lines may be notified in writing. Depending on fire risk and size of the debris, vegetation management crews will dispose of debris in one of the following ways: chipping into a truck or in place (live material only) or chopping and scattering around the property. Any debris too large to chip or impractical to chop will be left on site for member use.
Safety is always a priority. If you see any vegetation that you feel could imminently cause a fire, please contact us. If you have a question or concern about trees or vegetation management, please use the link below or contact us at 208.292.3292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.