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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Different Types of Power Outages and How to Respond to Each

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Power outage is also known as power failure, power blackout or preferably, blackout. Most of the time, power outages don’t last very long and can be rectified within a short period of time. However some power outages can last very long spanning into several days and weeks. It is therefore important to know the different types of power outages and how to respond to each one of them

Types of power outages 

Relating to the duration and effect of the outage, there are four main types of power outages:



Transient/Permanent Fault 

Rolling Blackouts


Blackout is the total loss of power to a particular area. It is the most severe form of power outage that can occur. The duration of outage depends on the nature of the blackout and the configuration of the electrical work. Power outages may last several days to weeks depending on these factors.

How to respond

“Undergrounding” can be used to mitigate the risk of this disruption . Undergrounding means placing electricity distribution lines underground. This will make the service more reliable in areas that are likely to be affected by the damage. 


A brownout occurs when there is a decrease in voltage in an electrical power supply system. It doesn’t necessarily mean a total loss of power. Just as the name implies, there is a dimming lightning experience as a result of sagging voltage. Brownout can cause significant issues too, especially on appliances that require a higher level of voltage to operate. Appliances like fridge, electric ovens and the likes will not be able to operate properly.

A power outage in San Juan, P.R.

Intentional and unintentional brownout

Intentional brownouts are used to deliberately reduce load in an emergency. They are also used to prevent a total grid power outage due to high demand. Unintentional brownout can be as a result of excessive electrical demand or severe weather events. It can also be caused by a malfunction in error affecting electrical grid control or monitoring systems.

How to respond

Put off the equipment that requires a much higher voltage to function. This way you will be reducing the risk of damage to the barest minimum. You can also leave one light on to know when the voltage returns back to normal. 

Transient/Permanent Fault

Transient fault is used to describe loss of power that is caused by a fault on a power line. As soon as the fault is rectified, power will be automatically restored. Permanent fault is used to describe a sudden loss of power caused when there is a fault in power lines. 

Transient and permanent faults are usually a fault within a mechanism instead of the power grid of a larger area. As a result of this, they are quite easy to fix. More often than not, they do not even have a wider impact on the general area.

How to respond

During this outage, ensure you keep yourself and your family secure. Turn off appliances that were on when the power went out. Also ensure you use food from the refrigerator or freezer first so they don’t get spoiled, pending when the fault will be rectified

Rolling Blackouts

A rolling blackout is an electrical power shutdown that is intentionally engineered either for a long or short time. This way electricity is stopped for a non overlapping period of time over different parts of the region of distribution. Rolling blackouts happen when demand for electricity exceeds supply. This will now result in some customers getting power supply at the stated voltage while the others get no power at all. 

Rolling blackout is a last resort measure used by electric utility companies to avoid a total outage of the power system. If the demand for electricity surpasses the power supply capability of the network, then rolling blackouts can be used as a measure of demand response. So, rolling blackouts are more of a precautionary and preventive measure. 

Rolling blackouts are also referred to as rotational load shedding, rota, rotating outage or rota disconnection. Generally, there are two factors that could lead to rolling blackouts. They are insufficient generation capacity or inadequate transmission infrastructure.

How to respond

It is important to notify and remind people close to you about your blackout plan. Since rolling blackouts are necessary for the longevity of the power system, they need to have a clear understanding of this. This way, critical files can be backed and essential materials are not lost during that period.

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