Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1

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Customer Service (M-F 8a-5:30p): 425-783-1000

Reliability FAQs

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Can the PUD guarantee a constant uninterrupted power supply?

While the PUD cannot provide a 100% guarantee that a customer won’t ever experience a power outage, we’ve taken many steps to limit outages. The PUD aggressively removes trees that threaten power lines; installs equipment that helps isolate the problem and minimize the number of impacted customers; and constantly improves procedures for responding to outages. Numerous facilities have also been recently upgraded to improve performance and overall reliability. As a result, both the number of outages and their duration have been cut in half during the past decade.

What action does the PUD take during widespread outages?

During the storm season – even before threats of impending storms – a group of PUD employees keep a very close eye on weather patterns and develop a mobilization plan to respond to potential outages and damages from storms. 

When a major storm shuts down power to our customers, the PUD mobilizes its workforce to help restore service. Energy control dispatchers dispatch servicemen, familiar with their respected territories, who are usually the first in the field to assess damage and recommend corrective action. Line crews are sent into the field to repair damage. At the same time, customer service representatives field calls from customers and transmit information to crew and energy control dispatchers. Corporate Communications staff keep the media apprised about the status of the storm and service restoration. In the PUD Storm Center, engineering staff monitor restoration efforts, set priorities and make decisions about whether to call for additional resources. All storm-related posts function around the clock until the emergency is over.

How does the utility keep abreast of the ever-changing electric industry?

The PUD belongs to numerous electric industry associations and participates in conferences, roundtables and information-sharing functions throughout the year. Energy industry experts regularly work together to address reliability issues. A recent Electricity Reliability Summit in Seattle, for example, brought together industry leaders and the U.S. Secretary of Energy.

How has the PUD improved its infrastructure to increase reliability?

The PUD has spent millions of dollars in recent years to maintain its existing facilities and build new systems. For example, we have invested in our switching stations and distribution substations, which distribute electricity to the various circuits that serve neighborhoods in our service area. In recent years, new substations have gone on line in South Everett, Lake Stevens and on the Tulalip Reservation. The PUD has performed work at numerous existing substations, including installation of additional transformers, upgrade of the distribution circuits to increase power capacity, and improvements to breakers to decrease exposure to outages. The utility regularly replaces utility poles and transformers as part of its annual maintenance plans. The PUD also uses state of the art planning and design tools to improve system performance.

What’s the chance of rolling blackouts in our area?

Every utility has the possibility of outages since no one can guarantee a 100% uninterruptible power supply. For the PUD to need to implement rolling blackouts, several extraordinary circumstances would have to happen at once. Some contributing forces include extended cold weather, lack of power generation in the region, severe equipment failures, continued below-average water levels, and problems with transmission systems. 

The PUD has contingency plans in place: if the need for rolling blackouts did occur, outages would be rotated throughout the utility’s service area to make sure that no one neighborhood or region bears the burden of energy shortages. The PUD would attempt to provide as much advanced warning as possible; however, in some cases – such as equipment failures – outages could happen immediately with no notice.

PUD customers should remember that rolling blackouts are short-term events, and they should not feel panicked or fearful. Customers, however, should prepare for blackouts, just as they would in the case of potential winter storms that take power out.

Customers on life-support systems, as always, should have backup plans in place. They should make arrangements with friends, family or a local agency for relocation in the event of a disruption to electrical service.

If blackouts were necessary, customers could access information by tuning into radio and TV broadcasts for updates; or checking announcements on the main PUD phone line (see Customer Service number to the right).

The PUD contingency plan serves to best use available resources to ensure that the utility protects the integrity of the entire electrical system. In our 60+-year history, we have never experienced any rolling blackouts in our service area.

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