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Planned & Unplanned Power Outages/ Restoration

Often, we have to plan power outages to make repairs, perform maintenance or upgrades and survey electrical equipment.  Sometimes we don't have the luxury of planning power outages at all, they just happen.  When power goes out or needs to go out, it takes a very coordinated effort with the utility company as well as the local authority-having jurisdiction (AHJ) aka, “the City.”  

In general, this article covers the process that we follow, though in doing this it should be understood that we are coordinating with very large entities that often lack detailed or urgent communications, and this can make the effort more strenuous than it needs to be.  

For the sake of this article, we’re going to refer to our local Houston based “CenterPoint Energy” as the utility provider, which could potentially be supplemented with any other utility provider in other regions. Failure to adhere to any of the following protocols can or will prevent the outage and restoration of power from occurring.     

Since 1999, we’ve tracked this process, adapted to its ever-changing protocols, and attempted to nail-down the very best practice in managing power outages promptly. 

Quick Summary

  1.   We (Direct SCD) contact CenterPoint and local City or AHJ as required.
  2.   The outage date is set or, if emergency, we perform the electrical work.
  3.   CenterPoint shows up and turns off power.
  4.   The client contacts their energy provider and requests that their power be restored.
  5.   Direct SCD contacts CenterPoint and requests power be restored.
  6.   Direct SCD contacts local city for permitting release to CenterPoint.
  7.   The system is turned on and tested.
  8.   Inspections are performed.

Here’s the long-winded chain of events and some of the protocols that will occur and should be expected

Direct SCD Contacts CenterPoint Energy (CPE)

  1.   If scheduling after-hours or weekends, we need to coordinate with a Power Consultant.  We have to call CenterPoint to make this happen.  Typically, they're going to ask, “Is this number associated with the account you’re calling about?" to which we answer: “No, it's not.” The system is voice activated; we say, “I need to speak with a power consultant.” 
  2.   Once we speak to a live person, and we tell them the zip code and the address, they give us a power consultant's name and email (email given only if you specifically ask). We have to ask specifically for the email address for power consultants, and they are often guarded. 
  3.   If scheduling for normal business hours Mon-Friday, simply speak with a live person and put in the request. 
  4.   Call the main line @ (713) 207-2222 and follow the prompts.
  5.   You may also call the nearest CPE Service Center directly and attempt to establish contact.  
  6.   If you leave messages and don’t hear back from CPE, start the process of contacting them all over again.

Scheduling CenterPoint

  1.   Generally, CenterPoint requires two weeks’ notice.  
  2.   Typically, if the outage is during normal business hours, during the work week, a power consultant is not needed.
    • We can schedule that up to 48 hours in advance by calling customer service via the main phone line. We'll still have to go through the same process of getting it turned back on with the permitting, the release, and everything else. But, no power consultant is typically required, making the job a lot easier. 
  3.   CenterPoint usually ceases daily field activities by 7PM.  Normal routine outages need to occur prior to their typical shut down time of 4-5PM or we risk them NOT showing up.  If you’re not turned back on by 7PM chances are we’ll have to call in the morning by 7:45AM and attempt to get them out during the next AM. 
  4.   All of this is depending on weather and CPE workloads AND subject to cancellation or rescheduling as they see fit. 
  5. Usually, in the event of unplanned emergency outage, CenterPoint is able to return same day or next day.  

CenterPoint to Standby While Work Being Performed

  1.   They will do this for paid outage after-hours and weekend situations (Saturday and Sunday)
  2.   During normal business hours Mon-Fri, they won’t stick around and wait.  They'll show up, they'll turn it off, and IF you're nice to them, you might get their number so you can call the crew leader directly, and they MAY come back out and turn it back on for you quicker than routing back thru the call center.

CenterPoint Fees 

  1.   A power consultant confirms all fees prior to the outage event.
  2.   Anything done on a Saturday scheduled outage is less than if they have to do it on a Sunday.
  3.   A typical eight-hour outage on a Saturday say eight hours usually runs between $1600 – 1700 dollars on up to $2000 dollars. On a Sunday same length of time, it could be upwards of $3500 dollars 
  4.   This has to be paid at least three days prior to the scheduled outage, hand delivered check and we usually expedite this on behalf of the client and simply tack it on the final invoice.
  5.   If the outage is performed after-hours, after four o'clock on a weekday, or on weekends, you have to pay for that.  You have to pay for the outage, at least three days prior to them scheduling it.
  6.   If it's done during the week regular business hours, they don't charge for that.  

Standing by onsite for CenterPoint 

  1.   CenterPoint requires the electrician to be there once they've re-energized.  They will not turn the disconnects or breakers for the client’s equipment.
  2.   The electrician has to turn on and test all internal or client related electrical equipment as well as show CenterPoint that a secondary disconnecting means is present inside the building. 
  3.   The client must be present or make arrangements to provide access inside the facilities. 

County Involvement 

  1. Typically, CenterPoint, as long as you've already had power existing on that building, will perform the outage and reconnect. The power provider has to release it and the client has to call on their own to request this via their power provider. 
  2. Typically, we will also call CenterPoint on behalf of the client and request connection simultaneously more often than not, it takes both the client and our team calling CenterPoint to finally get power connected. 

City Involvement 

  1.   If this is within a certain city limits, permitting will be required in order to schedule the outage and more importantly, getting it turned back on. 
  2.   Electrical permits required for an outage are typically: TCI (Temporary Cut In) and a Reconnect

Getting City Permits released to CPE for connection 

  1.   As soon as we get the electrical permits, we can call a senior inspector and let them know the date of the outage. The city will then release it to CenterPoint. 
  2.   Sometimes, CenterPoint does not receive the first release.  In those instances, we call the city back and ask them to release again, double checking addressing information for exact matches. your power consultant and tell them “Look, they released it on this day at this time, but they're releasing it again.” But they'll release it as soon as you get the project number. They'll call CenterPoint to have it released.  Usually, it's about a 30-to-45-minute process once they contact CenterPoint Release Division.
  3.   Typically, the first thing CenterPoint’s will ask is; “Do you have a permit for this” “Yes we do, and it's already been called in and the city is going to release it” 

Power Provider Involvement

  1.   The client needs to participate in requesting via their power provider that the power be restored as well. 
  2.   CenterPoint request that the customer contact the power provider even in when the location is within city limits.

If this seems like a lot of coordination... it is.  Often on a quote containing a power outage coordination in the scope, this simply shows up as "Provide CenterPoint Coordination".  The simplicity in that statement is severely understated.  Getting power on and off promptly is very difficult now days even though we have a great track record of making this happen 100% of the time.  

This article has been shared by Direct Service, Construction and Design to specifically accommodate our intended clientele.  The intent of sharing this information is to better inform the public of these general topics, expand knowledge and safety for all and provide crucial information in regard to their MEP and building systems and/or assets. It is NOT our recommendation that any article recommendations or how-to scenarios be attempted by anyone other than a qualified or competent person.