Houston – Sept. 21, 2008 – While 11,000 CenterPoint Energy employees, mutual assistance linemen and tree trimmers continue to work around-the-clock to restore power, there are steps customers can take to help get their home ready to receive electric service and stay safe.
Protect your sensitive equipment and air conditioning units
Before power is restored, unplug all sensitive equipment, such as computers and plasma screen televisions, and turn off your air conditioner. When power is restored to a large number of customers at once, large appliances can cause a short-term power surge which may damage electrical appliances. Leave one light on. Once electric service is restored, plug in small appliances, then large appliances and finally turn on your air conditioning.
Inspect your electric meter
CenterPoint Energy will make repairs to the electric delivery system up to the point where it connects to a home or business. However, the customer is responsible for repairs if there is damage to the meter box or weatherhead – the point where the line enters the home through a pipe. If the meter box or weatherhead is damaged, the customer will need to have their equipment repaired before service can be restored. If in doubt, homeowners should contact a licensed electrician to make an inspection and any necessary repairs.
The following illustration shows the customer-owned facilities that must be in good working condition before power can be restored.
Service Drop – the small power line between the electric pole and the house. CenterPoint Energy crews will repair this line.
Weatherhead – the capped pipe that connects the service drop to the meter box.
Meter Box – the metal box attached to the house, which accepts the electric meter.
Stay away from downed power lines. Know where power lines are and always stay at least 10 feet away. Whether you’re trimming your trees or clearing debris, take note of all power lines in the area and have a plan of how to work around them.
As customers continue to use portable generators and begin to clean up storm debris, it is critical that customers act safely and follow these important tips:
Use portable generators in a well-ventilated area. Never run them inside, even in your garage. Gasoline-powered generators produce carbon monoxide, and the fumes can be deadly.
Do not connect the portable generator to any house wiring.
Never connect a portable electric generator or a motor home/RV generator directly to your home's electrical system during a power outage. Electricity could backfeed into the power lines and endanger CenterPoint Energy workers.
Plug appliances directly into the generator using heavy duty, properly grounded extension cords. Make sure that extension cords are not frayed or worn.
Read all instructions carefully and follow all manufacturers’ guidelines for portable generator operations and grounding.
Limit the number of appliances you use to no more than the recommended wattage of the generator.
Use the generator only when necessary, and don't overload it. Turn it off at night while you sleep and when you are away from home to avoid a possible fire hazard.
If you have any doubts about how to properly use a portable electric generator, contact the manufacturer or a licensed electrician for assistance.
Be alert for the smell of natural gas. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately and tell others to leave too. Many areas are inaccessible or extremely difficult for company employees to access so it’s important to leave the area and call CenterPoint Energy from a safe, remote location and to be patient.
Do not smoke, strike a match, use a cell phone or operate anything that might cause a spark, including a flashlight or a generator.
Do not attempt to turn natural gas valves on or off. Once safely away from the area, call 713-659-2111 or 888-876-5786 and CenterPoint Energy will send a trained service technician immediately.
Call before you dig. Digging into buried utility lines can cause serious injury or death. Before performing digging or reinstalling fences during clean-up, customers need to request that underground utility lines are marked. For your safety, you are required by law to call 811. This service will connect you with the state one-call center, which will alert participating utility companies such as electric, gas, cable and phone about the planned digging so they can mark the appropriate location of their underground lines if necessary. Please be prepared for a longer than usual wait time during the next few weeks, and do not dig until the lines have been marked.
How customers can help
Customers who do NOT have power should call Customer Service at 713-207-2222.
While CenterPoint Energy will cut trees and limbs away from power lines and the electric service drops to the homes, homeowners are responsible for the removal of debris left by tree trimming crews who are assisting with power restoration efforts.