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Power cut cover

Do you know what to do in a power cut?

Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of August 20, 2021.

There’s never going to be a convenient time for a power cut – even having one overnight can ruin your day. But what should you actually do in a power cut? You should read this guide!

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What causes a power cut?

There are a number of things which could leave you with no electricity, but the most common are:

  • Bad weather
  • Birds flying into the lines
  • Trees and branches falling onto the lines
  • Vehicle collisions
  • Unrelated work accidentally hitting underground power cables
  • Planned work on the lines (you should be informed of this in advance)

You may find you tend to have more power cuts in rural areas, especially over the winter, due to bad weather and more wildlife and trees closer to the overhead power lines.

What to do if you have no electricity

Check to see if your neighbours’ power or streetlights are out too.

If your neighbours do have power, there might be something wrong in your house. The first thing you should do is check your fuse box. If your trip switch is off, try switching it back on. If it switches off again, this means that one of your appliances might be faulty – unplug all of your appliances and reset the switch. Plug them back in one at a time to find out which is causing problems.

If there are no issues with your fuse box, check you’ve paid for enough energy. If you’re on a prepayment meter, you might just have run out of credit, which is an easy fix. All you have to do to get back on supply is to go to the shop and top up. If you’re on a different meter, make sure you’ve paid your recent energy bills. If neither of these are the problem, you can call your energy provider for help.

If it’s not just your house, you should turn off appliances which shouldn’t be left unattended, for example, hair straighteners, cookers, and electric fires. Leave a light or something noticeable on so that you can tell when the power comes back on.

Try not to open your fridge or freezer too often, if at all. Opening the doors can let the cold out, warming up and defrosting foods. If your power cut lasts longer than a few hours, you might have to throw a lot away as it can be dangerous to freeze some foods after they’ve been defrosted.

Check on your elderly or vulnerable neighbours – they might be struggling during this time and may need your help staying safe and comfortable, especially over the winter. If they have medical equipment with nowhere to power it, they should have been given a phone number to call in this situation.

How to report a power cut

Did you know…

Your energy supplier isn’t responsible for dealing with power cuts or anything electrical or gas-related other than the billing of your usage. Your distribution network operator is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the electric and gas networks up and down the country.

If you need to report a power cut, you should call 105 – the dedicated emergency power cut line. They’ll get you in touch with your Distribution Network Operator (DNO) who is responsible for fixing the issue.

If someone has already reported the power cut, they can tell you why there’s a power cut, what they’re doing to fix it, and when your power should be back on. However, you should only use this number to report a power cut – this is an emergency number only.

Keep an eye on the status of your power cut

Most DNOs have a live power cut tool that lets you find updates and check the status of any power cut in your area. Simply type in your postcode and you can see if it’s been reported and when your power should be back on.

You can also give them a call on their non-emergency line or they might also post updates on their social media. If you’re on the Priority Services Register, someone will contact you regularly to give you updates.

Use the button below to find out who your DNO is and how to contact them for updates.

Who’s my DNO?

What to do when the power returns

Give the electrical system a chance to stabilise before turning any appliances back on. After a power cut, there is likely to be a big surge of electricity, which is why we turn them off. Turn them on one by one to make sure nothing has been badly affected by the power cut.

Reset all of your alarms (smoke, burglar, and carbon monoxide). Doing this early makes sure that you don’t forget and keeps you, your family, and your home safe in other dangerous situations. Then reset any clocks that have been affected, such as your oven or plug-in alarm clock.

If your power has been out for a while, check your fridge and freezer for any spoiled or defrosted food. Generally speaking, as long as you’ve kept your freezer door shut, your frozen food should stay frozen for around 12-24 hours and chilled food should stay chilled for around 4-5 depending on the temperature and how full it is. If food begins to defrost DO NOT refreeze it – either cook it or throw it out. If you’re unsure about something, it’s best to throw it out.

If you’ve used anything from your emergency kit, restock them. Make sure all of your batteries and battery-powered appliances are charged. You never know when the next power cut might be and when you’ll need them.

Be prepared for the next one!

Because there’s no way for you to avoid a power cut, the next best thing is to be prepared for any more you might have.

  • Keep torches (and spare batteries) in easily accessible places – no one wants to be rooting around in the dark
  • A battery-powered or wind-up radio tuned into your local station might be able to give you updates on the situation
  • Candles can be an easy source of light, and a small heat source too. Just don’t leave them unattended, especially around children
  • Fitting surge protection equipment can help save your appliances from faults when the power comes back on
  • Warm blankets are an essential during winter power cuts
  • If you see regular power cuts (which rural areas might), invest in a few battery-powered appliances. Your neighbours will definitely appreciate a cup of tea from your portable kettle!
  • Have a back-up energy source, such as solar panels or generator (keep petrol generators outside as they can release toxic fumes)
  • Know where manual overrides are and if you’re able to use them
  • It’s easy to forget how much we rely on electricity in our day-to-day lives. Have books, puzzle books, and games to keep you occupied and make sure anything battery-powered is charged regularly
  • Sign up for the Priority Services Register if you’re elderly or vulnerable and keep their number near the phone

What is the Priority Services Register?

The Priority Services Register is a free service provided by energy suppliers and network operators. It’s aimed for elderly and vulnerable households to keep them safe and help make their energy supply more accessible.

The help given depends on your provider. It could include sending out a meter reader regularly, giving priority support in an emergency, arranging a password to protect them from scammers, and more.

To be eligible for the Priority Services Register, you will:

  • Be of pensionable age
  • Be disabled or chronically ill
  • Have a long-term medical condition
  • Have a hearing or visual impairment or have additional communication needs
  • Be in a vulnerable situation (mental health conditions, injury, temporary circumstance changes, recently bereaved etc)
  • Have a child under 5

To get on the register, you should contact your energy provider. Your provider and network operator will each have separate registers so you can also ask them to pass your details onto your DNO if you’d rather be on their register. This might be good if you’re dependent on your energy supply for medical reasons or have a child under 5.

If you’re on your provider’s Priority Services Register and you switch providers or move house, you’ll have to re-register with your new provider and will have to register with your gas and electricity providers separately.

Can I claim compensation?

If you’ve had a power cut, you might be able to claim some kind of compensation, however, this depends on how long the power was out for and whether or not the outage was planned. You can only get compensation if it was the Distribution Network Operator at fault or it’s due to bad weather.

If the power outage was planned, you can claim compensation if you’re not given 2 days notice or if the work is done on a different day. You’ll be able to receive £30 if you claim within 1 month.

If the power cut was unplanned, the amount of compensation you could get depends on a number of factors.

If the power was out for longer than 12 hours in less than 5,000 houses, you could claim £75 and £35 for each 12 hours after that (for example, if it was off for 24 hours, you would get £110).

If the power was out for longer than 24 hours in over 5,000 houses, you could claim £75 and £35 for every 24 hours after that, up to a maximum of £300 (for example, if your power was out for 48 hours, you could receive £110, but if it was out for 8 days, you would get £300 instead of £320).

If the power cut was caused by bad weather, you could claim £70 if the power was out for over 24 hours, regardless of how many homes were affected, and an extra £70 for every 12 hours after that, up to a maximum of £700.

If your power goes out for over 3 hours more than 4 times in one year (1st April to 31st March) you could claim £75.

To claim, contact your DNO. You should be paid within 10 days, if not, you could receive another compensation payment of £30 for late payment.

If you need some more help...

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This page was written by...

Polly Tyler

I've loved writing since I was a child and have worked on a number of different projects since I left school, including journalism, copywriting, and marketing. Utilty Switchboard has given me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and experience and I've loved every minute!

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