AEP Ohio offers tips on how to prepare

GAHANNA, Ohio, Dec. 9, 2009 – AEP Ohio is advising customers to be prepared for a potential wind storm and the potential for power outages depending on the severity of the wind effects across the state. Customers should consider developing a plan of action to deal with the storm, such as having the necessary tools in the event they lose electric service and arranging for alternate shelter if an outage is prolonged.

AEP Ohio builds its lines in accordance with National Electric Safety Code (NESC) standards to withstand wind speeds of up to approximately 40 miles per hour. Power outages could occur as a result of the currently predicted wind levels. One of the most common causes of outages during high wind events is tree contacts with power lines and equipment. One tree limb can knock out electric service to hundreds or even thousands of customers. Trees also can delay restoration of service that has been interrupted. This year, AEP Ohio increased its cycle right-of-way vegetation management program, which focuses on keeping rights of way clear of trees and overhanging branches, to help reduce customers’ exposure to outages caused by trees.

If power outages do occur, customers in Ohio should call the company’s toll-free number at 1-800-672-2231 or 1-800-277-2177. Wheeling, W.Va., area customers should call the company at 1-800-852-6942. During times of high call volume, callers may hear a recorded message. Even if a customer does not speak with a Customer Solutions Center representative, the customer can leave an electronic or recorded voice message about the outage.

Customers who use battery-powered laptop computers can report outages online at www.aepohio.com. If there is a widespread extended power outage, AEP Ohio posts information about restoration efforts on www.aepohio.com. “The first question the on-line outage site asks is whether a downed wire or other safety hazard exists,” said Joe Hamrock, AEP Ohio president and Chief Operating Officer. “AEP Ohio is concerned that customers take appropriate precautions around electrical equipment at all times, especially during service interruptions.”

    The following safety tips can help customers cope with outages:
  • Prepare an emergency kit with flashlight(s), battery-powered lamp and fresh batteries; battery-powered radio or television; water for drinking and cooking; instructions for manually opening power-operated garage doors; and manual can opener.
  • Never touch a downed wire. Always treat this situation as dangerous. Report downed power line conditions to 911 or AEP Ohio by phone or online as soon as possible.
  • Disconnect (trip breaker in your electrical panel) major heating and cooling equipment circuits. In fact, leave just one or two lights switched “on” to let you know when power is restored. Once power is restored, turn on appliances gradually. Electric utilities can have problems with what is called “cold load pick-up” following outages as customer demand surges when service is restored.
  • If the temperatures dip below freezing and the power outage is projected to last overnight or longer, consider moving to a shelter or in with friends or relatives who do have electricity. Please check on family, friends and neighbors who are elderly or may live alone.
  • If you leave your house, protect your water pipes from freezing by turning the water off at the main shutoff valve and opening faucets to drain the water.

Customers are reminded that it is difficult to estimate restoration times for specific areas, especially while the storm is in progress.

AEP Ohio provides electricity to nearly 1.5 million customers of major AEP subsidiaries Columbus Southern Power Company and Ohio Power Company in Ohio, and Wheeling Power Company in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. AEP Ohio is based in Gahanna, Ohio, and is a unit of American Electric Power.