Understanding Outages

Our commitment today and in the future is to our members. You can count on Mohave Electric Cooperative (MEC) to be there when you need us. We’re working to prevent outages when possible, restore power as quickly and safely as possible when an outage happens, and continue to look for ways to improve reliability in the future.

At Mohave Electric, we know you count on us to make sure the power is there when you flip the switch, and we work hard every day to make that happen. In fact, MEC maintains a reliability rating substantially better than the industry guideline. Outages do happen. When they do, our crews respond to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

Outage and Restoring Power - The Basics

Members sometimes ask why some outages are only two minutes while others last several hours.

The short answer is, the length of an outage depends on many circumstances such as location, time of day, cause, system design, weather, and what equipment is needed to make repairs. Each factor plays a part in how quickly we can respond to and restore power.

A brief, momentary interruption, or a short two-minute outage, indicates the system’s automated, self-healing network has engaged to prevent a longer outage. If you experience an outage longer than two minutes, it is important to let us know. Even if other members may have reported an outage, we may not know power to your home or business is off.

Historically, the most common causes of outages are weather, animals/birds, and trees. Outages are also caused by the public, such as vehicles driving into components of the electric system, balloons and kites coming in contact with power lines, and digging into underground facilities.

Reporting an Outage

Calling 1-844-MEC-COOP (844) 632-2667) is the an easy and fast way to report an outage and is most effective when you call the outage-reporting number from a phone number listed on your Mohave Electric account.

You can also report an outage by logging into your SmartHub ® account or use the mobile app. Want more outage information? You can set up notification features in SmartHub to receive an email or text message for outage notification, updates, and power restored.

The newest way to report an outage is through our text option. Simply text “Outage” to 55050 from a mobile number listed on your account and your outage will be logged into our system.

These are fast and easy ways for our members to alert MEC of outages!

Restoring Power - The Process and Timing

When an outage is reported, our Outage Management System directs the information to MEC field crews.

The same highly trained people you see working on the lines during the day also provide “on-call” support for an outage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MEC has operations facilities in Bullhead City, which also serves Fort Mohave, Mohave Valley, Golden Shores, and Topock; and a facility in Kingman serving Valle Vista, Hackberry, Truxton, Peach Springs, and Wikieup.

Scheduled work hours for the operations crews are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the winter. During summer months the hours are 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to help avoid the hottest part of the day. If an outage is reported during scheduled work hours, MEC’s Call Center coordinates with the Operations Supervisor in Bullhead City or Kingman and relays any additional outage information reported. Information received about the outage may be specific, such as reporting a pole down with the exact location, or a member describes hearing a loud noise. The supervisor uses all the information from the reports describing the extent and location of the outage to start a process for restoration.

The supervisor reviews where crews are working at the time and decides which crew will respond. Before the crew can leave their field work area, they must stop the work in progress and be certain it is in safe, secure, and reliable condition. This usually takes 30-60 minutes to complete.

Now the crew assigned to the outage can respond to the heart of the outage area and begin looking for signs of obvious issues. The distance from the crew’s work area to the outage area will affect how long it takes to arrive at the scene.

In outlying areas such as Wikieup, it will typically take 90 minutes for the crew to reach the vicinity from MEC’s Kingman Operations Facility.

While the crew is responding, the supervisor may go to the substation, and use other communication tools to review data that can help determine a probable cause. If an outage is reported during non-scheduled work hours, MEC’s Call Center, or our contracted call center representative, coordinates with MEC’s “on-call” crew.

The responding crew has 30 minutes to report to their work location in Bullhead City or Kingman. After arriving at the operations facility, crews load the Mohave Electric trucks with tools and equipment. They are ready to depart about 30 minutes later for investigation of the outage and to restore power.

The length of time required to reach the outage location is determined by its distance from the operations facility. To reach outlying areas such as Wikieup or Peach Springs adds about 90 minutes of driving time.

Once on scene, the reality is some outages are found more quickly and require less time to fix than others, which affects the duration of the outage. MEC trucks are stocked with many of the replacement items needed for outage restoration.

Sometimes special equipment is required and the crew will need to return to the operations facility and then back again to the outage location.

During periods of severe weather, there may be outages in multiple locations. Crews prioritize response efforts with an emphasis on public safety, such as downed power lines. While crews are responding to known outages, there may be additional unknown factors that can affect the power restoration process. Until we know the full extent of the damage and if there are other problem areas, it is difficult at best and more often nearly impossible to provide an estimated time of restoration.

Occasionally, outages are caused by a problem experienced by our transmission provider or power supplier. These types of outages are rare but are the responsibility of transmission or power suppliers, although MEC crews stand ready to help in these situations.

Along with determining the location and cause of an outage, crews may be able to re-route power to parts of the outage area by using circuit switching equipment in the field or at a substation.

Reliability Improvements - Past/Present/Future

Mohave Electric’s Board of Directors and management are committed to an ongoing program of reliability improvements. Our focus is on projects that help minimize the number of members affected by outage events, reduce the number of outages, and help shorten outage duration. MEC’s line-hardening projects strengthen portions of the 69 kV sub-transmission and distribution lines by replacing wood poles with steel poles in various wind-prone areas of the service territory. Installing steel poles helps prevent the domino effect of the more vulnerable wood poles breaking and falling during storms.

Other projects include improvements to overhead lines, underground electric cable, substation equipment, fiber-optic network communication, tree and vegetation management, pole inspection, and wildlife protection and mitigation programs.

We are using technology to make outage reporting easier for members. And our field crews are using electronic tablets that give them information from our Outage Management System (OMS), and help crews locate an outage and cause for faster restoration of power. OMS and enhanced communication equipment provide important system information during and after outages, and can help spot potential problems before they create an outage.

Understanding Outages – November 2020 Currents Article

At Mohave Electric, we know you count on us to make sure the power is there when you flip the switch, and we work hard every day to make that happen. With that being said, we understand that outages do happen and that they often occur during inopportune moments.

You may find yourself asking, what causes an outage? Outages can be caused by many different things, though most of the time outages are caused by natural elements. In 2020, MEC’s top three outage causes are storms, animals, and underground electric facilities. Whether that be a downed tree, something stuck on the line due to storms, birds, and rodents, or a underground electric facilities, MEC works around the clock to ensure our members have power restored as quickly and safely as possible. Human error, such as balloons and kites encountering power lines, and digging through underground power equipment can also lead to power outages.

Members might also ask, how is it that at times I lose power for a few minutes and at other times power is out for hours? Short power outages, known as momentary outages, can be caused by a powerline protection device, known as a recloser, trying to clear the power line of debris by momentarily opening and closing the power circuit. In doing so, this gives objects the opportunity to fall clear from the power line during the pause in electrical flow. Substation equipment and powerline protection devices have been programmed to try to self-clear before direct intervention from an MEC crew is needed. If the protection system is successful in clearing the line, members will have power restored momentarily and avoid the experience of a longer duration power interruption.

Calling 1-844-MEC-COOP (1-844-632-2667) is a fast way to report an outage and is most effective when members call the outage reporting number from a phone number listed on your Mohave Electric account. When using the outage hotline, please report any information that may help our crews pinpoint the trouble location. That could be an address where a tree is on the line or the location of a vehicle accident that involves a power pole. Also, you can report a power outage by logging onto your SmartHub account or with the SmartHub app. The newest way to report an outage is through our text option. Simply text “outage” to 55050 from a mobile number listed on your account and your outage will be logged into our system.  These are fast and easy ways for our members to alert MEC of outages!

When an outage is reported, our Outage Management System directs the information to MEC field crews. We have crews “on-call” 24 hours a day, seven days a week that understand the urgency in member outage management. MEC has operations facilities in Bullhead City, which serve Bullhead City, Fort Mohave, Mohave Valley, Golden Shores, and Topock. MEC also has an operations facility in Kingman, which serves areas near the city of Kingman, Valle Vista, Hackberry, Truxton, Peach Springs, and Wikieup. In addition to being on call 24/7, we have crew members scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during our winter months and 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during our summer months ready to respond to any power emergency that might take place.

The process of restoring power during normal operation hours can sometimes be relatively simple, depending on the cause. An operations supervisor gains knowledge of an outage from our outage management system and then locates the closest crew. The supervisor then gives the crew known information about an outage to ensure crews have the correct equipment. Obtaining the correct equipment and preparing crews typically takes 30-60 minutes depending on the equipment needed for an outage.

Once crews have arrived on site, the outage restore time depends solely on the intensity of the damage. It is difficult to put an exact restore time on outages since each outage situation is different.

Outages that occur after hours are handled slightly differently.  Crews must live within a 30-minute commute of their operations facility in both our Eastern and Western territory regions. This creates a baseline response time before arriving on an outage scene. Crew trucks stay stocked with most materials needed to fix many outage issues. However, some time might be added to a response when critical equipment is required to be added to the trucks before heading out. There are times when crews will be handling an issue and realize that specialty parts and tools are needed, which will require crews to return to the operations center to appropriately stock up and head back out to address the issue.

No matter the complexity of a power outage, MEC treats every outage with the same quality of work and urgency. We want to ensure our members that we are constantly learning and adapting to emergency power situations so that power can be restored as safely and quickly as possible. We understand the importance of power and how it affects our members. We do all we can to reduce outages by keeping lines clear of trees, offering tree trimming programs, updating operating systems, and continuing to train our staff to handle diverse situations promptly.

Some outages originate outside of MEC’s system. What we mean by that is power is provided to MEC from different power provider services and may travel long distances across a line that can also be damaged before it ever reaches an MEC owned substation. If the transmission provider’s system is damaged, power outages can last significantly longer due to multiple organizations having to respond to the situation. These systems are very sophisticated and do a great job of locating the trouble area of the line. MEC always tries to be the responding crew and assist our power provider in the outage restoration when the trouble is within or near our service area. However, power generation and transmission are a step before the MEC system and, at times, MEC does not have the opportunity to interject. It can take additional time for transmission outages to be addressed depending on how far transmission crews are from the issue.

Mohave Electric’s Board of Directors and management are committed to an ongoing program of reliability and improvements. MEC is constantly looking for ways to improve reliability to our members whether that means improving our electric system, installing a new fiber-optic communications system, utilizing our tree vegetation management program, continuing to refine our wildlife protection and mitigation programs, and adding substations, when needed, to improve power reliability to our members. MEC is hard at work living up to the expectations of our members and is continually striving to demonstrate our integrity of being a Cooperative.