Turn Off Utilities After a Disaster to Avoid Charges

Wednesday September 14, 2011
Posted at 08:15

Hurricane Irene caused about $1.5 billion in destruction, destroying or damaging over 400 homes in Connecticut and 700 homes in Vermont. Numbers were even more overwhelming in North Carolina where 1,100 homes were destroyed or damaged, according to Governor Beverly Perdue, and in many other states along the eastern seaboard.

This week’s Texas wildfires continue to set records, razing hundreds of homes and tens of thousands of acres. More than 5,000 people have evacuated to avoid the flames and the 16-mile-wide wildfire in Bastrop County in Central Texas is the worst wildfire in Texas history. The wildfire will likely destroy additional homes as the number of homes destroyed across the state tops 1,000.

What to Do After a Disaster

More deaths typically occur after a hurricane than during one, so be extremely careful when returning home after any natural disaster and only do so after authorities have deemed your area safe. Have a qualified electrician or technician inspect the wiring in your home, reconnect utilities and relight pilot lights if you do not know how to safely do so.

In the case of a total loss of your home, or in the case of an extended stay away from your home due to severe damage, be sure to alert your utility company and your energy service company or ESCO (also known as a retail electric provider or REP). Even if local officials, police officers and firefighters may know that your home was destroyed, your utility company may continue to bill your account for “estimated usage,” or usage estimated in accordance with your typical usage patterns, whether or not you’re living in your home.

“A lot of customers assume that the utility company knows that the electric account will just close since the home was destroyed. That is not the case – they need to call in,” says Rachel Rodriguez, customer service manager for Spark Energy. Rodriguez says that a retail electric company can submit requests on behalf of customers to the utility to electronically notify them to stop service to the residence in case the customer is unable to reach the utility company directly.

Once everything is shut off, an inspector from the county or city will need to inspect the premises to be sure it’s safe to begin rebuilding. At that time, you’ll need to call your utility to set up a temporary meter for your contractor’s needs. Check with your county or city government on what types of inspections are required to begin rebuilding and to move back in. Once the home is inspected and passed, you’ll need to contact the utility to set up permanent service and you’ll be able to select an ESCO or REP.

Special Disaster Assistance

If you’re a Spark Energy customer, we’ll be happy to help accommodate your needs after a natural disaster. We understand that it can be a stressful time and will do everything we can to help make your transition as smooth as possible. If you’ve been displaced because of a natural disaster, please contact our customer service department and we can take your situation into account and help you accordingly, whether you need to relocate temporarily or permanently.

Additional Resources

We’ve compiled a list of utilities in the Houston area and Central Texas in case you need to contact your utility company. Please note that Spark Energy is unable to assist non-Spark Energy customers with move-outs or customers not within our service area. We are also unable to assist customers with permitting, inspection, or rebuilding – please contact your local government or insurance company for that information. The information below is provided for your convenience.

Spark Energy Customer Service:

East Coast Utility Contact Info for Hurricane Irene Areas: http://bit.ly/IreneOutage

Houston-Area Utilities:

- CenterPoint Energy:

- Texas-New Mexico Power-TNMP:

- American Electric Power-AEP Texas:

- Entergy Texas (Not in Spark Energy Service Area):

  • Area: Bryan/College Station, Navasota, Hempstead, Magnolia, The Woodlands, Conroe, Liberty, Cleveland, Huntsville, Beaumont, Port Arthur and east to the Louisiana border
  • Customer Service and Emergencies: 800.ENTERGY (800.368.3749)
  • Report Outage: 1.800.9OUTAGE (800.968.8243)
  • Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/EntergyTEX
  • Website: http://www.entergy-texas.com/

- San Bernard Electric Cooperative-SBEC (Not in Spark Energy Service Area):

Houston-Area Permitting and Construction Information:

- Harris County Public Infrastructure Department:

- Montgomery County Environmental Health & Permitting:

- Grimes County Environmental Permits:

- Waller County Permitting and Construction:

Central Texas Utilities (Not in Spark Energy Service Area):

- Austin Energy:

- Bastrop Power & Light:

Central Texas Permitting and Construction:

- City of Austin Building Permits:

- Bastrop County Permits:

Sources

Governor, Feds Vow to Rebuild Irene-Damaged Conn.,” – Houston Chronicle, September 5, 2011.

Vt. Gov Seeks Vacation Homes for Flood Victims,” – Associated Press, September 6, 2011.

Schumer Tours Irene Damage, Promises Fight for FEMA Aid,” www.lohud.com, September 5, 2011.

Hurricane Irene Relief Fund Estimated at $1.5bn,” – Guardian, September 6, 2011.

Irene Destroyed More Than 1,100 Homes, N.C. Governor Says,” Associated Press, August 30, 2011.

Disastrous Texas Wildfire Now Worst in State's History,” Time, September 6, 2011.

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