How power is restored

Power line technician a top on a power pole

When the lights go out, our team gets to work

There are many individuals working behind the scenes to restore your power, especially in the event of a major storm or emergency. Learn more about the outage restoration process, how we prioritize outages, the common outage types and what they mean and outage status defintinions.

Our process to restore power

 If your lights go out, this is the general process we follow to get your power back: 

Our dispatchers will use our smart meter data, along with information from customers to confirm an outage and dispatch a crew to investigate. Once a crew is on the way to your outage, we’ll update the outage status to crew on their way so you know we’re on the way. Once they’ve arrived, we’ll update to say crew on site.

Learn more about what each outage status means.

Our crews will arrive on the scene of an outage to determine the cause and the repairs required to get power back. In some cases, the cause is obvious, such as a fallen tree or branch on a line. Or it could be more difficult to determine, especially if equipment is underground.

If a major storm has caused damage to our transmission system, we may have to bring in helicopters or specialized equipment to allow our crews to survey the damage in hard-to-access areas. 

Once crews determine the cause and the required repairs, they’ll provide an estimated time of restoration (ETR) and we’ll update the status of your outage on our outage list and outage map.

While we do our best to provide an accurate estimate, unexpected challenges or other variables can impact these estimates. A major storm that has caused significant damage to our system will affect our restoration times and we must prioritize what we tackle first. 

Learn how we prioritize outages during a major storm

Crews work on making repairs. This may include replacing broken or damaged equipment. Repair times vary depending on the cause of the outage and certain repairs can be lengthy, for example, replacing a broken power pole can take up to eight hours to complete.

When possible, we’ll perform ‘switching’, which involves temporarily moving customers on to another circuit to provide them power while we work on these more lengthy repairs. 

Once repairs are complete and we test to make sure things are working, your power is restored and our crews move on to the next outage.

If your outage is no longer listed on the site but you’re still without power, check your circuit breaker or fuse box. If you don’t find any tripped breakers or other issues on your end, call us at 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376) or *HYDRO (*49376) to let us know your power is not back on. 

How outages are prioritized

During major storms or emergencies when we have significant damage and multiple outages in a region, we prioritize what our crews tackle first, this includes: 

We attend outages with downed power lines or other risks to the public first. Sometimes this means that a crew may have to leave a work site to attend a scene that poses an immediate risk to public safety. 

We’ll work with local municipalities to identify critical infrastructure and essential services, such as hospitals, fire or police stations and municipal water systems to make these repairs next.

We then work to bring back as many customers as quickly as possible. This means making repairs for outages that are affecting the largest number of customers, which are often transmission or substation outages.

This can mean that "newer" outages that affect much larger numbers of people may get tackled before an "older" outage in a smaller neighbourhood. 

We restore outages affecting large neighbourhoods, then smaller neighbourhoods, and finally, outages affecting individual customers. 

Understanding the status of your outage

Our outages list and outage map show you the status of your outage, here’s what each means: 

  • No crew assigned: a crew hasn’t been assigned to the outage yet. We're working around the clock to get power restored but we don't have updates at this point.
  • Crew assigned: a crew has been assigned to the area and your outage is on their list to tackle when they can.
  • Crew on their way: a crew is on its way to investigate your outage.
  • Crew on-site: a crew is working to investigate the cause of the outage and determine the required repairs and we’ll have an estimated time of restoration (ETR) soon. 
  • Changed from assigned to not-assigned: the crew may have been called away to address an immediate safety issue or emergency, other work took longer than anticipated, or additional damage was found and we had to shift resources.
  • Suspended: the initial crew that arrived and assessed the problem needed different equipment. This usually means heavy equipment or materials like new poles, or additional personnel to tackle the problem and it's not currently assigned to a specific crew.

Outage types and definitions

Below are the common types of outages, what they mean, and what is required to restore power. 

What it means: This type of outage is caused by a motor vehicle contacting BC Hydro equipment, often a power pole or a pad mounted transformer kiosk.

What's required to restore: This type of outage can take significant time to restore as the repairs required are often quite extensive. For example, replacing a power pole that has been damaged by a vehicle can take up to eight hours. We'll often look to provide electricity to impacted customers via an alternate path through 'switching' while crews work on repairs. 

What it means: This type of outage is caused by a tree or branch falling on a power line. 

What's required to restore: Crews must remove the tree or branch from the line and restring the line. This type of outage is common during a major storm event. In this type of event, there may be multiple trees down on a line that must be removed before repairs can be completed. 

What it means: This type of outage is caused by a squirrel or other animal contacting a piece of equipment causing it to trip. 

What's required to restore: A crew must locate the area of contact, inspect and repair any damage caused by the animal. This is one of the common causes of outages at our substations. It will often impact a large number of customers but can typically be restored quite quickly. 

What it means: This type of outage is usually caused by a large bird making contact with two of the three phases on a pole causing it to short and a fuse to blow. 

What's required to restore: A crew must locate the area of contact, inspect and repair any damage caused by the bird and then replace the blown fuse on the line.

What it means: This type of outage could be caused by anything from a balloon to a miscellaneous piece of material that has blown into a power line, causing the line to short and a fuse to blow.

What's required to restore: A crew must locate the area of contact, inspect and repair any damage caused by the object and then replace the blown fuse on that line.

What it means: This type of outage occurs when a major transmission line is unable to deliver electricity. This could be caused by a variety of factors from a damaged transmission tower to a lightning strike. 

What's required to restore: Repairs for this type of outage can be prolonged as it may be difficult to access the area to identify the problem and we may need to bring in specialized equipment. We'll often look to provide electricity to impacted customers via an alternate path through 'switching' while crews work on repairs. 

What it means: This type of outage is caused by a wire coming down off a pole, causing it to short. 

What's required to restore: This is a public safety concern as the wire is considered live and dangerous. Emergency responders will often attend the scene and block off the area around the line until it is made safe by a crew and repairs can be completed. 

Remember if you come across a downed line, stay back at least 10 metres and report it to 911. 

What it means: A piece of BC Hydro equipment has broken down and requires repair or replacement. 

What's required to restore: Crews must assess and repair or replace equipment. This may be part of a larger outage, depending on the type of equipment. 

What it means: Criminal activity has caused an equipment failure.

What's required to restore: A crew will investigate the damage and determine the required repairs as it may not always be apparent. The crew will then repair or replace the damaged equipment, which will often require an outage in order to do so safely.  

What it means: Equipment in a local substation has failed. This could be due to a number of factors, including a weather-related issue or an issue with a piece of equipment. 
What's required to restore: A crew must locate the area of the fault, inspect and repair any damage. This type of outage will often impact a large number of customers but can typically be restored quite quickly.