What to do in a power cut and who to contact
This guide is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not intended to give you advice on your personal financial circumstances. You should seek independent professional advice if you’re unsure about anything mentioned in this guide or what choices to make.
So you’re cosied up in the lounge, watching TV or listening to the radio, maybe surfing the net at the same time. Dinner’s in the oven and you’re thinking about putting a DVD on. Then suddenly there’s a ‘click’, and your world is plunged into darkness. Uh oh, it’s a power cut. Do you know what to do in a power cut?
First things first
Have a peek out the window. Can you see if your neighbours’ lights are on? If they’re not (or if the streetlights are out too, although they’re not always affected by power cuts), then it’s likely there’s a power shortage in the area. In this case, you need to ring your electricity supplier to inform them of the problem (it’s helpful to have the right number written down somewhere in case of such an event), and they should be able to tell you what’s going on.
If your neighbours’ lights are still twinkling away then the issue might be with your fuse box, so check it to see if any trip switches have gone off. If not, then the problem might be more complex and you should call an electrician.
Switch off appliances
Things like irons, ovens, electric fires and fryers need to be turned off straight away, because they could pose a hazard if the power comes back on and they’re unattended while you’re in bed or if you go out.
Fridges and freezers
Fridges and freezers will keep food cool for several hours after the power goes out, so don’t panic! If you have ice in your freezer, put it in a cool box along with refrigerated dairy items such as milk, cheese, fish and meat to keep it fresh. Freezers will keep food frozen for longer if they’re fuller, so consider filling any gaps with tubs of water. Avoid unnecessarily opening fridge and freezer doors if possible, and cover freezer chests with blankets to create extra insulation (remember to take them off once the power is back).
It’s much safer to use torches than it is to burn candles or paraffin lamps, but if you must use these items then make sure you use them safely:
- Place them on firm surfaces where they won’t be knocked over
- Keep them away from kids, curtains and pets
- Never leave them unattended
It’ll take a little while for your house to cool down if you’ve had the heating on, but if you find yourself getting chilly, load up on blankets and jumpers – and remember, a hug is a great way to keep warm! Try to keep mobile if possible as physical activity can help raise your body temperature – this is especially important for elderly people.
Most alarms have a battery back-up supply so their operation shouldn’t be affected by a power cut, and electrical locking systems are usually programmed to unlock if there’s an electricity supply problem. However, once the power comes back on you should still check they’re working as they should.
If the power is off for more than two or three hours, you might start worrying about your fishy friends heat pumps and filters won’t work during an outage. But there are a few things you can do to keep fish happy:
- Place a bottle full of warm (not boiling) water into the tank to help maintain water temperature (you can heat water on a gas hob or with a portable gas stove, but do it carefully!)
- If your fish require oxygen, it’s helpful to aerate the water manually – this simply involves swishing the water around by hand (gently!) or using an empty container to pour the same water in and out of the tank to keep it moving
- Put a blanket over the tank to help insulate it
Love thy neighbour
If you live near elderly or particularly vulnerable people, take a few minutes to pop round to check they’re okay and to ask if you can help with anything. The simple act of lending a blanket or helping them up the stairs in the dark could make a lot of difference to them.
Make the most of your down time
Let’s be honest; it’s not often we’re cut off from the everyday distractions of TV, the internet, video games and so on. So why not make the power cut into a fun family event? Tell stories, go outside and look at the stars, hoover through any icecream you’ve got in the freezer – make the most of it! You could even play light switch roulette. Make sure all the light switches are set to ‘off’, then take turns giving them a flick at random intervals. Whoever ends up turning a light on wins!
Call 105 to report or get information about power cuts.
Contact details for all district network operators
You can call 105 which will put you straight through to your electricity network operator from most landline and mobile numbers free of charge, alternatively here are the contact numbers for all district/electricity network operators:
- Central and Southern Scotland - SP Energy Networks - Emergency: 0800 092 9290
- East Midlands - Western Power Distribution - Emergency: 0800 6783 105
- Eastern England - UK Power Networks - Emergency: 0800 316 3105
- London - UK Power Networks - Emergency: 0800 316 3105
- Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and North Shropshire - SP Energy Networks - Emergency: 0800 001 5400
- North East England - Northern Powergrid - Emergency: 0800 668 877
- North East and Yorkshire - Northern Powergrid - Emergency: 0800 375 675
- North Scotland - SSE Power Distribution - Emergency: 0800 300 999
- North West England - Electricity North West - Emergency: 0800 195 4141
- South East England - UK Power Networks - Emergency: 0800 316 3105
- South Wales - Western Power Distribution - Emergency: 0800 092 9290
- South West England - Western Power Distribution - Emergency: 0800 6783 105
- Southern England - SSE Power Distribution - Emergency: 0800 072 7282