We understand the inconveniences power outages cause. Occasional power outages or interruptions in service are an unfortunate reality for utilities, especially in heavily-treed areas like ours. This page includes resources for members experiencing a power outage and answers to the most frequently asked questions. Please know that FEC is staffed 24/7 to respond to power outages, and our crews work round the clock to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
The most up-to-date information about ongoing outages is available on our Outage Map. If you received a text message about your outage, the system will text you automatically when power has been restored.
If you need to report an outage: Text OUT to (406) 751-4449. You may also report outages through your My Co-op mobile app or by logging into your online account, or you can call the Co-op at (406) 751-4449.
Frequently Asked Questions
- The cause of the outage might be in your home and not on the Co-op's side of the meter. Please check your fuses and breakers before you report a power outage.
- If the outage is on the Co-op's side of the meter, keep in mind that homes in a neighborhood may be fed by different service lines
- The “service drop” power line that brings electricity directly to your home might be impacted, which would leave your neighbor’s home unaffected.
In a perfect world (and with constant cooperation from Mother Nature), Flathead Electric Cooperative could provide power 24/7 without interruption. In reality, we come pretty close. Your Co-op typically has an “up time” of over 99% -- staff is proud to provide reliable power to our members despite the trees and storms that sometimes thwart our best efforts.
- Removing a branch from a power line is usually relatively simple and quick.
- Replacing a broken power pole or digging up buried cable to find and repair a fault is a much longer process.
- Outages can last from minutes to hours or even days, depending on the severity of a storm or the damage to the system.
- Your location also affects the time it takes to restore power. If you live in a rural area, it might take Co-op crews an hour or more just to arrive on location (especially if they need to leave their home in the middle of the night).
Our #1 goal is to safely restore power to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible. To accomplish that, prioritization looks like this:
- Transmission lines receive first priority. This is because they supply power to substations, which distribute power to thousands of members.
- Substations are next.
- Then, transformers and distribution lines.
Watch a 3-minute the video on outage restoration prioritization here:
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.
As of June 2023, your Co-op will text you automatically if our system data shows a power outage at your location! Your cell number just needs to be current in our database. Learn more at flatheadelectric.com/textME.
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).
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.
Yes. Outages are a reality of living in Northwest Montana. Your Co-op wants you to take time to make a plan for your situation. Some members have animals to care for. Others have children or health-compromised individuals depending on them. Everyone’s home is different. We’ve laid out the questions you should ask yourself here.
No. Power outages are inevitable due to the extreme weather conditions we experience in Northwest Montana. Individual damages incurred by “Acts of Nature” aren’t covered by our insurance, which is another reason we encourage members to have plans in place to keep themselves (and their personal property) safe in case of power outages.
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.
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.
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.
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).