CHARLOTTE, N.C. – As the June 1 start of hurricane season approaches, Duke Energy is preparing to respond to power outages as quickly as possible – while also adapting to the extra challenges of protecting the health and well-being of the company’s employees, customers and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now more than ever, our customers are depending on us for the essential energy they need to power their homes and workplaces, which in many cases are one and the same,” said Harry Sideris, senior vice president of customer experience and services. “We recognize that even brief outages in this pandemic are no longer simple inconveniences but disruptions, so it’s important that we, along with our customers, plan now for any impacts a major storm may create.”
Duke Energy protective and preparedness measures
“We’ve experienced several spring storms across our service areas the past two months and we’ve learned a lot about social distancing and keeping people safe. We’ll be applying those lesson on a broader scale should our service areas experience any major storms this hurricane season,” Sideris continued.
- Duke Energy crews are using social distancing measures and, when appropriate for certain work, face coverings while working in the field.
- We are reducing or eliminating processes that involve paper transfers among crews and extended physical spacing during activities like job briefings.
- Crew coordination and logistics support are being conducted remotely through a virtual outage response center model.
- Meetings with vendors and others suppliers are underway to understand now the expectations for supporting storm response and the options available.
- Social distancing rules and screening processes will occur at staging sites, crew lodging, catering and support services to help protect crews as well as communities during large-scale outage restorations.
The public can help Duke Energy promote a safe work environment by not approaching utility crews in the field or entering their work zone as they restore power. Please adhere to local COVID-19 protective orders and follow work-zone signage instructions to help our crews avoid distraction and maintain a safe environment.
Duke Energy will continue to rely on mutual assistance agreements with neighboring and other utilities for large storm response. While the modified lodging / logistics processes put in place for COVID-19 will be different, our experience indicates that the modifications should not cause significant delays in outage response unless circumstances limit the number of off-system crews available for response.
Important safety reminders
We encourage customers to have a plan in place if they experience an extended power outage. Below are some tips to help you and your family stay safe.
Before the storm hits
- Create (or update) an emergency supply kit to save valuable time later. The kit should include everything an individual or family would need for at least two weeks, especially medicines, water, non-perishable foods and other supplies that might be hard to find after a storm strikes. Your emergency kit should also include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, bar or liquid soap, and face coverings aligned with CDC guidance.
- Keep a portable radio or TV, or NOAA weather radio on hand to monitor weather forecasts and important information from state and local officials.
- Charge cellphones, computers and other electronic devices in advance of storms to stay connected to important safety and response information. Consider purchasing portable chargers and make sure they are fully charged as well.
- Maintain a plan to move family members – especially those with special needs – to a safe, alternative location in case an extended power outage occurs or evacuation is required. When checking on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
- Review insurance policies, and include extra copies of the policies and other important documents in your emergency supply kit (ideally in a waterproof container).
- Pet owners should make arrangements to stay at evacuation shelters that accept pets; friends' or family members' homes; or pet-friendly hotels.
After the storm hits
- Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees, limbs or anything in contact with lines.
- If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.
- If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More tips on what to do before, during and after a storm can be found at www.duke-energy.com/safety-and-preparedness/storm-safety. A checklist serves as a helpful guide, but it's critical before, during and after a storm to follow the instructions and warnings of emergency management officials in your area.
Before the storm hits, customers should contact us to make sure their contact information is up to date and their communication preferences are noted, so they receive proactive outreach on the status on a power outage they may experience. Customers who experience an outage during a storm can report it the following ways:
- Visit duke-energy.com on a desktop computer or mobile device.
- Use the Duke Energy mobile app – Download the Duke Energy App from a smartphone via Apple Store or Google Play.
- Text OUT to 57801 (standard text and data charges may apply).
- Call the automated outage-reporting system for your utility:
Customer service specialists will be available to manage customer calls should the need arise, with more than 1,500 additional corporate responders from across all Duke Energy jurisdictions also available to assist as needed.
Tips for protecting refrigerated food during a power outage
For customers who lose power and have full refrigerators and freezers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following tips:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
- A refrigerator can keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. If the power will be out for more than 4 hours, use coolers to keep refrigerated food cold.
- A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
The FDA offers additional tips for proper food handling and storage before, during and after a power outage at www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-and-water-safety-during-power-outages-and-floods.
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S. It employs 29,000 people and has an electric generating capacity of 51,000 megawatts through its regulated utilities and 2,300 megawatts through its nonregulated Duke Energy Renewables unit.
Duke Energy is transforming its customers’ experience, modernizing the energy grid, generating cleaner energy and expanding natural gas infrastructure to create a smarter energy future for the people and communities it serves. The Electric Utilities and Infrastructure unit’s regulated utilities serve 7.8 million retail electric customers in six states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The Gas Utilities and Infrastructure unit distributes natural gas to 1.6 million customers in five states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The Duke Energy Renewables unit operates wind and solar generation facilities across the U.S., as well as energy storage and microgrid projects.
Duke Energy was named to Fortune’s 2020 “World’s Most Admired Companies” list and Forbes’ “America’s Best Employers” list. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos, videos and other materials. Duke Energy’s illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
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