A loss of power for whatever reason is a serious matter. Although most will see it as an inconvenience for those relying on medical equipment or stair lifts, they can be dangerous.
What should I do if I lose my electricity supply?
Firstly, make everything safe. Power tools or heat sources could suddenly re-energise if your electrical supplies are restored. Turn them off and unplug them from the power outlet.
Try a couple of light switches to work out if your whole house has lost power, or just part of your supply. If some of your power outlets or lights are still working, it is likely that one of your trip switches have operated. This could be due to an overloaded circuit or because of a safety issue on that circuit. You will know if this is the case by checking your home’s fuse box. Look for any switches that are in the off position and try to reset them. If this happens over and over again, you have a faulty appliance or circuit. This sort of issue is the responsibility of the household and won’t qualify for compensation.
If your whole house is in darkness and none of your power outlets are working, then you have a bigger problem. This could again be due to a trip switch, in this case your main circuit breaker. Try resetting any switches in the off position, especially the main power switch for your home. Again, this problem is your responsibility, so you won’t be able to claim any compensation.
If your whole house is in darkness, your trip switches are all in the on position and none of your power outlets are working, then you may have experienced a power cut. Look outside to check the street-lights and ask neighbours if they have been affected. Social Media is often an incredibly fast and effective way of checking to see if anyone else in your local area has the same issue. If more people have been affected then it is likely that a power cut has occurred. In this instance you need to contact your local electricity distributor. This is not your energy supplier but the company responsible for your local infrastructure. To find out yours enter your postcode into the Energy Networks Association website.
What should I do if I lose my gas supply?
With gas it is more likely to be a supply issue than one local to your home. That said, check that you have no leaks or closed valves by walking around your gas system and listening for the hiss of escaping gas. Use your nose and if you detect a leak, open all windows and vacate the property. Remember to place safety at the top of your priorities.
As with a power cut, check to see if any of your neighbours are experiencing similar problems and then get in touch with your network operator.
From time to time the infrastructure that delivers gas and electricity to your home will need to be taken down for maintenance. Sometimes a loss of supply to your address will be unavoidable. In these circumstances you should be notified of the planned outages in advance. For electrical supplies you must be given 48 hours’ notice and for gas the notice period is 5 days.
What compensation might I get?
Incorrect or no notice being given before a planned power cut means compensation. This will be a one off £30 payment. If you are a business owner this rises to £60.
When weather conditions are normal and unexpected power outages affect your home, you are entitled to £75 compensation (This rises to £150 for businesses). This payment covers a 12-hour period after which point you will be awarded another £75 (£150 for businesses) for every 12 hours you are without power. When more than 5000 properties are affected by the same issue, compensation is capped at £300.
In cases of severe weather or flooding causing a power cut: Domestic and business customers will receive a payment of £70, which will cover the first 24 hours of disruption. This is then paid again for every subsequent 12-hour period of no power. When over 5000 properties are affected by the same issue, payments are capped at £700. There is no cap when less than 5000 households have experienced problems.
How do I claim?
Visit the website of your local network operator or give them a call. They will be able to take you through the relevant process for claiming compensation. You will have a month from the date of the power cut in which to make your claim.
If you are on the Priority Services Register, your compensation payments are automatic. You should also be first in the queue to have your supplies restored and receive any additional support you may require.
Make sure that you have details to hand such as your energy supplier and account number. Providing dates and times of the power cut will also help with your claim.