*File photo
*File photo
Bermuda Electric Light Company Limited (BELCO) is preparing for Tropical Storm Gabrielle, which is forecast to have an impact on the Island early next week.    

At BELCO, before a storm reaches the Island, a command centre is established in the C. Eugene Cox Operation Centre to manage electricity restoration work.  The company’s fleet of trucks is fully fuelled and stocked. Line crews are mobilised, and crews and equipment are positioned at safe, strategic locations across the Island. Essential staff, such as Customer Care Representatives, are put on alert to come into work as soon as it is safe to do so, after the storm eases. In addition, BELCO will request assistance from CARILEC, the association of Caribbean electric utilities (www.carilec.org ), asking that crews from Caribbean utilities be prepared to join the restoration effort, if needed.

Before, during and after the hurricane, the Operations Centre is in contact with Bermuda’s Emergency Measures Organisation (EMO) headquarters, responding in tandem with EMO.  Throughout the storm, engineers in the Operations Centre will monitor the entire system.

BELCO’s power generation plant is staffed and continues to operate during storms.  BELCO continues to generate power during storms, so that customers with intact overhead or underground lines may continue to be supplied with electricity.

The Operations Centre team will be aware of when and where outages occur. During the storm, crews will be dispatched to make repairs for as long as they can do so safely. When weather conditions make work unsafe, they will stand down until the storm passes.

Safety is BELCO’s first priority during a storm – both for customers and employees; as soon as storm conditions ease, efforts turn to quick, efficient, Island-wide power restoration.  BELCO’s first step is to dispatch damage-assessment teams, then develop a restoration plan. Crews restore power first to main line circuits to get the maximum number of customers back on with each job; priority is given to lines supplying essential services, e.g., Fire Service, Police, airport and hospital. Once main lines are back on, branch lines are restored and then smaller distribution lines.

BELCO will keep the public informed of restoration progress through its web site, www.belco.bm and local news media, Twitter and Facebook.

BELCO offers the following energy-related hurricane information:

 

Prepare for Storm-related Outages

• BELCO maintains a list of customers on life support equipment that requires electricity and priority is given to restoring power to these customers; however, the company advises these customers to make arrangements for appropriate care during the storm.

• Have flashlights and batteries ready, plus manual can opener, and fill bathtubs, sinks, pots and jugs with water.

• Before the storm, trim trees branches away from power lines only if you can do so safely and without the branches falling onto overhead lines.

• Surge protection equipment can save valuable appliances and sensitive electronic equipment (note: surge protectors are not the same as simple power strips), but it is even better to disconnect appliances and electronic equipment prior to a hurricane.

• Put refrigerators and freezers on the coldest settings prior to the storm; keep doors closed to keep food cold as long as possible, in the event of an outage. This equipment should be on a surge protector. 

• BELCO cannot accept liability for damage to equipment caused by power interruptions or voltage variations such as spikes or surges that occur as a result of severe weather.

 

Generator Safety

Read manufacturer's instructions and operate the generator accordingly.  Make sure the generator is the correct voltage for your appliances (110V).  If you have questions, contact a qualified electrician.  Improper operation can cause fire and electrical shock to you and BELCO line crews. Note: generators require routine use, testing and maintenance.

• Connect your generator correctly, so that it is isolated from the BELCO system. Incorrectly connecting a generator is a safety hazard for you and for BELCO line crews, as the generator may back feed and energise power lines.  Do not connect the generator into the breaker panel or household lines; plug appliances directly into the generator and avoid overloading.

• Operate the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated area, and make sure it is properly earthed or grounded.  Also, make sure it is protected from rain.

• Never refuel a generator while it is running or hot. Always keep open flames, such as matches or candles, away from the generator; use a battery-operated flashlight when refueling.  Unplug the generator output cord before starting it.

 

Renewable Energy Installations

Before the hurricane arrives, set your solar or other renewable energy installation to ‘island’ mode, so that it is isolated from BELCO’s system and cannot back feed, energising power lines.  If your neighbourhood does not lose power, or when power is restored, you may safely return the system to normal operation.

 

Call BELCO at 955

• Before the hurricane, make sure that BELCO has the correct phone number associated with your account, so that when you dial 955 to reach the Outage Management System, your account and phone number will be ecognized.

• Please do NOT phone 955 during a hurricane, as crews cannot be safely dispatched until after the storm subsides.

• After the storm passes, BELCO will be aware of widespread outages. Please phone 955 only if your neighbours have power, but you do not.

 

Power Line Safety

• Never touch downed lines, as they may be live. Telephone or cable television wires that are touching power lines can become energised and should also be avoided. If you see a downed line, call BELCO immediately at 955; if you do not reach a BELCO operator, call 911 to report the location of the downed wire.

• Never pull tree limbs off lines, and do not attempt to carry out repairs to overhead lines yourself.

• Stay clear of areas where there is a lot of debris or downed trees, as live power lines may be concealed in the debris. Also, stay clear of chain link or other metallic fences that may be energised if touching a downed line.