When considering the leading causes for power outages, Mother Nature probably comes to mind first. Nearly everyone has experienced outages that occur because of severe weather, but a less recognized cause for outages can do just as much damage to power lines in the blink of an eye – car crashes.
SWEPCO understands the importance of reliability and has worked to build infrastructure that can withstand wear and tear. But even the most rugged equipment can be damaged by a pole strike in an instant.
Across the entire AEP system, car accidents impacted more than 600,000 customers resulting in outages for more than 1.6 million hours in 2022.
SWEPCO crews face unique challenges when responding to these events. Their work to restore power always starts with a safety focus, but the challenges to crash-related repairs can differ from those of severe weather outages. Crews not only have to make sure the wires are de-energized before beginning repairs – they also must ensure the scene is safe for crash victims and first responders.
After securing the scene and allowing any medical situations to take precedence, SWEPCO crews begin work to restore power. This work includes carefully removing damaged equipment and setting a new pole(s) to run power lines on. Crews complete the work by installing distribution equipment onto the new poles, then re-energizing them.
These restoration efforts often take several hours. Crews recognize the importance of restoring service to impacted customers, but that urgency does not distract from their safety mindset. Crash sites are often tense and carry human elements, which can have an impact on crews.
The number of crashes that impact power distribution reinforces the importance of safe driving. Car crashes not only cause significant harm to those involved, but also to nearby neighborhoods and communities.