When the power goes out — usually because of a summer thunderstorm, a vehicle crashing into a pole or other equipment damage — Tucson Electric Power’s emergency response and repair team kicks into high gear.

TEP typically learns about an outage through its computer monitoring system or calls from the public. Customers are encouraged to call Customer Care at 520-623-7711 or the 24-hour Power Outage Hotline at 520-623-3451, even if they think others have called in.

“The more customers who call in to report an outage, the more information it gives us to identify the location of the problem. Customer feedback is the best gauge of the true location and status of an outage,” said Thomas Mills, Manager of Transmission & Distribution Operations.

During the monsoon, TEP personnel can get stretched thin, with 500 or more calls coming in during a single storm. Priority is given to outages that impact public safety and affect the greatest number of customers.

As always, safety is our No. 1 priority.

“Sometimes we’ll secure a scene and not be able to start repairs until we secure 15 other scenes,” said David White, Transmission & Distribution Superintendent. “We do this with public safety in mind.”

Once an outage is identified, TEP dispatches a Troubleman — an electrical system specialist with years of sophisticated training and experience under his belt.

After making sure the area is safe for the public, as well as other responding agencies, the Troubleman identifies and works to repair the cause of the outage.

In life-safety situations — like a house fire or a traffic accident involving a downed power pole or energized wires — police or fire officials will contact TEP, and a Troubleman will be dispatched to the scene within 15 minutes.

Troublemen collaborate with crews to fix necessary equipment. While they work in the field, personnel in the system control center work to reroute the power to get the lights back on.

Throughout the process, we keep you informed. Our new outage center and map on tep.com provides live, up-to-date information about outages, causes and estimated restoration times. Outage updates also can be found on Twitter (@TEPenergy) and via the Customer Care line.

“We do whatever we can to restore the maximum number of customers as quickly as possible,” Mills said. “Many times, by rerouting the power flow, we can get nearly everyone back up again in a short amount of time.”

Design teams also may be called in to determine the best repair plan. Upgrades in electrical system design and materials often mean that outage repairs result in an improved section of the grid.

During the 2013 monsoon, TEP lost 160 poles and replaced more than 200 transformers, all due to inclement weather and lightning strikes.

“When we’re out working during the summer storms, customers should stay safe and keep away from our work zones,” White said. “We’re working hard and doing our best to restore your power as quickly as we possibly can.”

Photo Credit: Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star

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