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Outages: How NB Power gets your lights back on

September 30 2015, 11:39 AM

Outages: How NB Power gets your lights back on

Sometimes when bad weather happens, power outages do too. When an unplanned power outage happens, our goal is to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible. Unfortunately, we can’t restore every customer at the same time.

Make sure we know your power is out by calling us at 1 800 663 6272 or by entering either your phone number or account number in our report an outage feature on our mobile site.

In storms, NB Power crews must wait until the weather clears before they can begin to assess the damage. This means it can take some time to provide accurate estimates of when you can expect to get your power back.

In some cases, crews can restore power sooner than what we had estimated. However, in severe weather, the cause of the power outage may be difficult to locate, hard to  access, or there may be more than one cause  so the repairs may take longer.

How we set priorities for power restoration

  • We start by looking at how electricity is supplied  and repair damage to power plants, transmission lines and substations

  • We restore power to critical services such as hospitals, nursing homes, emergency responders,  water supply and communication systems.

  • We make repairs that will return service to the largest amount of customers in the least amount of time, such as high-density housing and large neighbourhoods.

  • We restore power to smaller neighbourhoods and individual customers.

Let’s dive down a little further into how we restore power with this video.


What causes power outages?

There are many reasons the power to homes or business might go out, including causes that are both in and out of our control. We work hard every year to reduce the number of outages by investing in new technologies, equipment upgrades and replacements, and tree trimming to help guarantee our grid’s reliability

But outages can, and do, still happen. Here are some of the causes for power outages in New Brunswick:

  • The most common cause of outages are weather issues like lightning strikes, heavy snow or ice buildup on lines and equipment, high winds, hurricanes or other extreme weather. High winds can also cause trees and branches to contact  power lines.

  • Non weather-related causes include  motor vehicle accidents, nearby construction and aging equipment that needs replacing.

  • Sometimes, we have to make repairs to a substation, switchyard or switching station, which can also cause temporary outages. NB Power has 97 substations, terminals and switchyards that take power from the transmission system and convert it to a voltage that will work in your home. If an outage starts at a substation, it’s usually because a specific piece of equipment needs repairs, because wildlife got into the station, or it was vandalized.

What types of outages are there?

Sometimes you will hear us refer to a transmission or a distribution outage which are two different things, though each affects your home or business in the same way. Transmission outages often affect a larger number of customers (more than a thousand), while distribution outages are smaller in number.

When we say we’re experiencing a transmission outage, it means electricity is being interrupted somewhere along the 6,849 km of high voltage transmission lines that travel across the forests of New Brunswick and connect our communities.

When one of these outages happens, our crews often have to travel long distances either by ground or air patrols to find the issue, which can take some time. Once they find the problem, they can often bring power back to some customers by re-routing electricity through neighboring power lines and substations. But those customers who are in the direct path of the issue usually can’t be re-routed, and will have to wait until repairs are made. 

Our distribution system delivers power directly to homes and businesses. New Brunswick has 20,815 km of distribution lines. That’s the same distance as driving from Fredericton to Vancouver Island 3.5 times.

You see these lines along streets or connecting to homes in back lots. When this kind of outage happens, NB Power crews can usually fix the problem quickly, unless it happens in a major storm and there are many localized outages caused by multiple issues. Sometimes distribution outages can still take a while to repair, like when a line or pole needs to be repaired or replaced.

What you can do to be safe during an outage

  • If a tree has fallen onto a power line near you and is causing an outage, please don’t attempt to remove it yourself- always assume the line is still energized.

  • If you see a downed power line, call us immediately at 1 800-663-6272 and stay at a safe distance from it and anything it may be touching, including puddles of water and fences.

  • If you or a family member has special medical equipment that requires power to operate, please make sure we know about you so we can get to you quickly.

  • If you have a generator, make sure you have a certified electrician install it to code- this will help keep your home and our line workers safe. Make sure you never use a generator indoors (this includes garages & other enclosed areas.) A generator’s engine exhaust gives off Carbon Monoxide (CO), which is a colorless, odourless and deadly gas. Only operate them in areas where the exhaust can’t enter your home through windows or doors.

  • Turn off all tools, appliances and home electronic equipment and turn your thermostats down to avoid load issues or fire hazard when power is restored.


Find more tips for preparing your home for weather-related power outages in our emergency guide.


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