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Emergency Power Cuts FAQ

Emergency Power Cuts are used in response to a National Energy Emergency at times of a severe shortage of electricity production (generation) in the UK.

How are rotas devised?

Each distribution area across the UK is split into 18 blocks which are each made up of a number of discrete geographical areas.  Each of these blocks is assigned a letter between A and U. The letters F, I and O are not used.

Each day of the week is split into 8 three hour SLOTS. The first slot of the day starts at 06:30.

The blocks are allocated to the slots in a way that allows businesses to operate as normally as possible for 3 days in succession. This means that power cuts will either be concentrated between Monday and Wednesday or Thursday and Saturday, with Sunday being shared between all blocks. The more severe the emergency, the greater the number of blocks that will be switched off at the same time.

How will you know when you will be without electricity?

In the unlikely event of Emergency Power Cuts becoming necessary, a range of communications methods will be available. There are two pieces of information that you need to be aware of: firstly, your Emergency Power Cut block letter and secondly the slots which show when you will be affected.

Your Emergency Power Cut block letter is static and will not change during an emergency. It is based on where you live and how your electricity is supplied. You can find out your Emergency Power Cuts block letter on your electricity bill under the address.

Once you have your block letter, you then need to know when your block will be switched off and on. The Schedule of Emergency Power Cuts will be published through national & local TV and/or radio stations. The Energy Emergencies Executive website is currently being upgraded to provide this information, along with the development of a smart phone and tablet app. You will receive 48-hours’ notice of Emergency Power Cuts.

How often will I be switched off?

The electricity supply will be turned off to certain areas, or blocks, for three hours at a time, depending on the shortage of electricity. This could be affected by the weather, the time of day and the demand for electricity.

At the lowest level of emergency, you could expect to be without electricity for just three slots in a week. However, if there is a severe shortage of electricity, you may be without supply for several slots in a week. You will receive 48hrs notice of Emergency Power Cuts being introduced.

What do I do if my electricity does not come back on when I expect it to?

If your electricity supply has not been restored after four hours, please call your Electricity Distribution Network Operator. Their number will be in the Yellow Pages under electricity.

Can you help?

Yes, it may be possible to avoid some power cuts by reducing the amount of electricity you are using. Please turn off every non-essential item, such as dish washers or tumble dryers, and minimise the use of electric cooking. Also, unplug all equipment that has a standby feature — they use electricity even when you are not using them.

Using portable generators

You should not connect portable generators to your home wiring unless you have had a proper connection installed by an authorised person. An incorrectly connected generator could cause danger to yourself and tour electrical equipment.

Helpful hints

When the power goes off, switch off electric heaters and cookers to avoid a fire risk when the power is restored.

Its always best to switch off and unplug equipment, including satellite receivers, video and DVD recorders, televisions and computer equipment, but leave a light on to tell when the power is restored. It may help if you can turn off your central heating time switch while the electricity supply is off.

  • Fill a vacuum flask with hot water boiled in the kettle and recharge mobile phones and rechargeable batteries for torches before the supply goes off.
  • Cordless phones don’t work without electricity, so consider having a basic telephone in case of emergencies.
  • Keep fridge and freezer doors closed. Contents should be safe for many hours but, if in any doubt, dispose of the food if it appears to have defrosted.
  • Check on elderly or infirm neighbours and make them aware of the electricity supply interruption situation.
  • To keep warm, stay in one room, or even in bed, and remember gas and oil central heating boilers generally won’t work without electricity to power their pumps.
  • When using an alternative form of heating or lighting - use it safely.
  • Listen out for information on local radio — use your car radio if you don’t have a battery radio.
  • It may be necessary to adjust time switches and clocks when your power returns.
  • Back up your computer work before the power is expected to go off.
  • A battery back up alarm clock may be useful for any overnight or early morning power interruptions
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