We are seeing more and more examples of violent, dangerous and disruptive weather. Some utility-related tips and resources in the aftermath of a storm:
What safety precautions should I take after a storm?
Never approach a downed power line, always assume it’s energized and extremely dangerous. Call your utility immediately to report a downed line: ComEd, 1-800-334-7661 (1-800-EDISON-1) or Ameren, 1-800-755-5000.
Check out these tips from:
- The state of Illinois
- The federal government (tips on severe weather, power outages, and medical devices during an outage)
- The American Red Cross (Also, food safety tips)
- ComEd (The utility’s storm center is here. Storm tips are here.)
- Ameren (Storm information is here, and outage tips are here.)
Some key tips after major storms or during power outages:
- Beware of strolling the neighborhood after a major storm. Stay away from fallen or low-hanging wires or anything they contact, and be especially cautious near metal fences.
- Stay alert for natural gas odors. If you smell natural gas, or if you hear a blowing or hissing noise, leave the area immediately and call your utility.
- Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
- First use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables should have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to be safe to eat. (Use a food thermometer to check.) THEN use food from the freezer. And THEN use your non-perishable foods and staples. If in doubt about the safety of food, throw it out.
- If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
- Beware of scams. In the past, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Attorney General’s office have warned people in storm-damaged areas to watch out for scammers looking to exploit homeowners and business owners who may be in need of repairs. Never pre-pay for repair services. If you are contacted and suspect fraud, report the incident to your local law enforcement, or contact the Illinois AG’s Consumer Fraud Hotline at 1-800-386-5438; 1-800-964-3013 (TTY).
- Stay away from downed power lines. Don’t try to “help” utility workers by moving branches off the lines. Keep a safe distance:, at least 10 feet away, and call your utility: Ameren, 1-800-755-5000, or ComEd, 1-800-334-7661.
We all should be at our best at times like this, so please check on your neighbors and family members to make sure they’re alright. (Just wear a mask and practice social distancing.)
Where can I get information about outages?
Here’s the outage map from Ameren Illinois and here’s ComEd’s map. For easy access to information about your own home, set up an online account with your utility. (You can do that here for Ameren and here for ComEd.)
With the Ameren map, another option to get info about your home is to click on “Check Outage Status.” With the ComEd map, click “Search” at the left, and type in a zip code or address. When that area pops up you can click on an icon to get details on the outage (including an estimate on when power will be restored).
Note: CUB’s dedicated team of consumer advocates, at 1-800-669-5556, will help check your outage status if you do not have internet access.
If I’ve suffered an extended power outage, should I file a claim with the utility to get reimbursed for spoiled food and other losses?
Illinois law says that customers could be entitled to compensation for losses or damages directly related to the outage in the event of a power interruption that impacts more than 30,000 customers for four hours or more. (Also, local governments can get reimbursed for “emergency and contingency expenses” as a result of the outage.) Unfortunately, the utility is allowed to ask for an exemption from reimbursing customers for “unpreventable damage due to weather events or conditions.” (If never hurts to make your case to the utility. If you want to file a claim, here’s where you can get the claim forms for ComEd and Ameren.)
If you have questions, concerns or complaints, contact your utility first. If you don’t like the response you get, please call CUB, 1-800-669-5556.