Sunrise in Kalispell

Outages

What if I’m on Life Support and require electricity?

If someone in your home depends on life-support equipment, do not wait until an outage to notify us! Call us now: (406) 751-4483.

We will do our best to give these residences priority when services are reconnected. Power outages are a reality, and can be prolonged depending on the situation, so if you must have power, the Co-op suggests that you have a standby generator available as a precautionary measure (learn more about safe standby generator procedures here).

Why did I receive notice about a scheduled power outage?

Flathead Electric Cooperative (and sometimes the Bonneville Power Administration, our wholesale power provider) occasionally needs to schedule a planned outage to complete maintenance or repair work on the power lines. These outages help keep our system reliable.

We will make every effort to notify you before a planned outage, which often includes making automated phone calls to impacted members. Please make sure to keep your contact information up-to-date by logging into your online account, using our My Co-op app, or calling (406) 751-4483.

Why don’t you trim all the trees around the power lines?

The majority of our power outages are weather and tree-related. That’s one of the unfortunate realities of living in this beautiful (and heavily treed) area of Northwest Montana. Because of this, Flathead Electric Co-op has a robust Vegetation Management Program. Trees interfering with electric utility lines or equipment are pruned or removed on a rotating schedule. To protect over 2,000 miles of overhead line, crews have a big job to do, trimming trees along 150 to 200 miles of line each year. This is in addition to responding to hundreds of tree trimming or removal requests from our members. Your Co-op’s tree trimming program is an industry best practice designed to prevent dangerous situations and ensure electric reliability.

Unfortunately, we can only control so much. We can only trim trees within our legal rights-of-way, and when major wind events hit, tall and otherwise healthy trees far beyond those legal boundaries are sent toppling into power lines. We can assure you that our tree-related outages would be far worse if not for the ongoing efforts of our tree crews. Tree maintenance is a constant effort to keep our system as safe and reliable as possible. Learn more about your Co-op's vegetation management program on our tree maintenance and safety webpage.

Why aren’t all the power lines underground?

That’s a great question. Your Co-op is constantly adding more underground power lines and retiring overhead lines. More than half of our distribution lines are underground, and that number is steadily increasing over time.

  • That being said, it’s good to know that members requesting new lines are generally the ones to decide whether they are installed below or above ground. That decision is usually based on costs and aesthetics, with most new services being underground installation. There are other considerations, too.
  • Replacing all overhead line with underground is not financially realistic. Short line extensions can cost 3 times as much as overhead, while long extensions can exceed 10 times the overhead cost. Replacing our entire system would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. As a member-owned cooperative, those costs would fall onto members through rates.
  • Underground line is not feasible at all locations including wetlands, high water tables, river crossings, for existing structures, or where there are rocky soil conditions.
  • Although underground installation may decrease the frequency of outages, it can increase the duration of outages if there is a cable fault. It takes much longer to restore power when lines must be excavated for repair.
  • The Co-op constantly analyzes how capital system improvements (like overhead to underground conversions) would benefit the membership as a whole. Your Co-op is committed to maintaining the system in a manner that provides reliable service and affordable rates now and in the future.
Why does my power sometimes blink?

A “blink” is:

  • a brief momentary interruption in service
  • a normal part of a power delivery system that serves an important purpose

Despite our best maintenance efforts, strong winds can cause trees to make contact with wires. As the electric system works to identify and resolve problems that may arise from this contact, protective equipment may cause:

  • lights to dim
  • momentary power loss of a few seconds

Without this protective equipment that sometimes causes “blinks,” prolonged outages might occur more frequently.

Why don’t you have more linemen for major outages?

Our line workforce is highly specialized, and it is impractical to employ more linemen than are needed for daily operations. Instead, to help keep rates low and in furtherance of the cooperative principle of “Cooperation Among Cooperatives,” we have mutual aid agreements with other electric cooperative and our wholesale power provider, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

Why isn’t anyone answering the phone when I call the dispatch center?

Your Co-op’s dispatch center is staffed 24/7, 356 days per year, to respond to power outages. Dispatch’s top priority is to assign crews and coordinate outage restoration efforts in the quickest and safest manner possible. When time allows, dispatchers also answer the outage phone line. When time doesn’t allow, outage phone calls are moved into an automated phone system in order to collect information with maximum efficiency and accuracy.

We know that being without power is inconvenient and frustrating. However, your Co-op asks that you refrain from calling dispatch after your outage is verified on the outage map or by text message to the cell phone number associated with your meter. Please keep dispatch phone lines open for emergencies, first responders, and members whose outage is not yet verified. Your Co-op will work around the clock to restore your power as quickly as possible.