What to do if you have a power cut  

We’ve put together a handy guide to help you in the event of a power cut.

Let’s check if it’s actually a power cut.

The first step is easy. Take a look outside and if the streetlights are on and your neighbours still have power, it’s more likely to be an issue inside your home rather than a power cut.

Check your fuse box to make sure all your switches are on. If you’re on a Pay As You Go meter, make sure you have enough credit. If there are no tripped switches and you still can’t get to the bottom of it, call a qualified electrician rather than attempting to fix anything yourself.

Power cuts explained

Why are there power cuts?

The UK has many energy suppliers like us, who supply energy to customers and businesses.

Distribution Network Operators own, maintain and operate the wires and cables which transport your electricity to you. The operators work hard to maintain these systems and react when there is a power cut in their area.

Power cuts can sometimes happen and are usually caused by one of the following reasons:

  • Acts of nature – including storms which can cause lightning strikes, flooding and fallen trees. These can all cause damage to cables and equipment
  • Accidents – we're all human, so, for example, damage to cables can come from making home improvements or even from people digging in their gardens and hitting a cable
  • Fire or theft – which damages the equipment on the network or in substations
  • Voltage dips and short power cuts can also happen – particularly in rural areas where overhead lines are more likely to get hit by flying birds.

When will there be a planned emergency power cut and why?

National Grid says that these are very unlikely.

A planned power cut, also known as a “Rota Load Disconnection (RLD)”, would only take place as an emergency measure if there is a severe lack of electricity. The Government and the network companies would have to agree there is no other alternative route before using this option.

National Grid has already introduced different methods to help prevent a lack of electricity this winter. Including, asking people to reduce their consumption at specific times -which we’re joining through Peak Save.

What to do if a power cut happens 

That's easy, just call 105

You might be surprised to hear that you don’t contact your energy supplier during a power cut. That’s because they’re responsible for selling the electricity but not maintaining the power lines.

To find the distributor for your local area to report a power cut or get advice, just call 105 or by visiting their website at powercut105.com

Who is my network operator?

Your network operator is the company that owns and operates the power lines and infrastructure that connects our network to your property.

To find your network operator you can search by postcode on the Energy Networks Association’s website. You can also stay up to date with developments by following National Grid on Twitter

Planned power cuts and how they work

Network areas are divided into 18 separate sub areas. These areas are then allocated a block letter based on their postcode.

Each planned power outage is likely to last around three hours, and in emergency cases, this could be longer. You’ll be contacted before it’s planned, with the details of the time when the power will be cut.

Where will I find my block letter code? 

You can find your block letter code on the front of your bill. It’s allocated in a small box near your address, or near the heading of your bill. If you don’t have a bill to hand, visit powercut105.com/findmyblock and type in your postcode.

How to prepare for a power cut

Switching your sockets off

There can be power surges while your power is not working normally, so protect your appliances by switching them off at the socket until everything’s up and running again. It’s a good idea to leave one main light switched on so you’ll know when the power comes back.

Stay warm

If any sockets are working, use portable heat sources such as electric heaters. Remember to keep any heating appliance uncovered and at least a metre away from your furnishings and curtains

  • Keep doors and windows closed, including internal doors. This is to try to trap the heat in one or two rooms
  • Block draughts by fitting draught excluders, or rolling a towel and wedging it under your door
  • Dress warmly, layering up with cotton, wool, or fleece. If it’s really chilly indoors you might benefit from outdoor clothes too, such as a coat, hat and scarf
  • Blankets and sleeping bags may come in handy if you’re in it for the long-haul

Stay safely lit

Torches are a much safer bet than candles when the lights have gone out. If candles are your only option, be sure to take extra care when using them. Stand them on a sturdy surface (carpets don’t count!) and away from anything flammable, pets, and children. And never leave them unattended once lit

Keep your chilled and frozen foods safe

Fridges and freezers will keep their cool for a surprisingly long time without power, Here are a few things you can do to help them:

  • Buy packaged or dry ice to pad out your freezer drawers
  • Keep fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible
  • Consolidate foods in the same drawer – they’ll keep each other cool whilst the freezer’s off
  • Stand meat and poultry items on a tray to stop juices dripping onto other foods if they thaw

Once the power’s back on, throw away anything perishable that’s been above 4°C for two hours or more. If you’re in any doubt, bin itYou can refreeze any foods that have stayed at 4°C or lower once everything’s back up and running.

How to make a power cut survival kit

Now that you know how to survive a power cut, here are a few simple steps you can take to get ahead of the next one.

Step 1  

Be prepared

Torches, spare batteries and a back-up charger for mobile phones are all handy. You might even consider a battery-powered radio, to keep on top of local updates if you can’t use your mobile. And keep a cupboard stocked with essential foods that you can prepare without electricity.

Step 2

Prep your fridge and freezer

  • Buy appliance thermometers for both your fridge and freezer to check that they stay safe during a power cut (-18°C for freezers and 4°C for fridges)
  • Keep some bagged or dry ice at home
  • Freeze leftovers like milk, meat and poultry. If you find yourself without power they’ll last longer

Step 3

Protect sensitive electrical equipment

  • Power surge plugs are great for valuable electrical appliances. They’re relatively inexpensive and you can find them at most electrical retailers
  • Keep your computer backed-up regularly, just in case
  • Make sure any home medical equipment has a battery back-up
  • Give your boiler pressure a check-up before things turn cold. It’ll run best at around 1 to 1.5 bars, and you can check this via the gauge on the front of your boiler

Extra help from the Priority Service Registry

To check whether you’re eligible and sign up for our Priority Services Register, just follow the link below.

Priority Services Register