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I’ve had a power cut, what should I do?

It can be worrying when the electricity suddenly goes off, especially if it’s at night. Knowing what to do and who to contact can help put you back in control. Here’s our guide on what to do in a power cut.

It can be worrying when the electricity suddenly goes off, especially if it’s at night. Knowing what to do and who to contact can help put you back in control. Here’s our guide on what to do in a power cut.

Written by
Sofia Hutson
Utilities expert
Last Updated
21 JANUARY 2022
5 min read
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What causes a power cut?

Power cuts can happen for a number of reasons. For example, damage to transmission lines, sub-stations or any other part of your local electricity network. Even birds flying into overhead cables can cause a blackout. 

High winds and floods are another common culprit. 

Did you know

The devastating damage caused by Storm Arwen in November 2021, left around one million homes and businesses across Northern England, Scotland and Wales without power – in some areas, for up to 12 days. 

It’s estimated that claims following one of the most damaging storms in decades, could cost the UK insurance industry as much as £300 million. 

What should I do during a power cut?

The first thing to do is check whether it’s an actual power cut, or a problem specific to your home.

  • Switch off all electrical appliances, to avoid a surge when the power does come back on.
  • Check your fuse box. It could just be a tripped switch that needs resetting.
  • If it’s evening, check whether the street lights are on outside.
  • Is yours the only property affected? Ask your neighbours. If the whole street’s down, you can be pretty sure it’s a network-wide issue.
  • Dial 105 or contact your Local Distribution Centre (LDC) directly. Most LDCs can now be contacted via social media.
  • Don’t call your energy supplier. They don’t have control of the actual power supply and won’t be able to help in the event of a power cut.

What is 105?

105 is the new national phone line for power cuts. It’s a free service and can be dialled from most landlines and mobiles. 105 is available to all electricity customers in England, Scotland and Wales and will put you straight through to your local electricity network operator.

According to the Energy Networks Association (ENA), 72% of people don’t know who to contact if they have a power cut, with 43% thinking they need to call their energy supplier.

The new number is a joint initiative set up by the LDCs, to make it easier for people to get through to the right team during a power cut.

Contacting your LDC

You can contact your LDC directly. There are six main LDCs serving different areas of the UK:

  • UK Power Networks
    Eastern England
    South East England
    Emergency: 0800 31 63 105
  • Western Power Distribution
    East Midlands
    West Midlands
    South Wales
    South West England
    Emergency: 0800 67 83 105
  • SP Energy Networks  
    North Wales
    North Shropshire  
    Emergency: 0800 001 5400
    Central Scotland
    South Scotland  
    Emergency: 0800 092 9290
  • Northern Power Grid
    North East England  
    Emergency: 0800 66 88 77
    Emergency: 0800 375 675
  • Electricity Northwest
    North West England
    Emergency: 0800 195 4141
  • Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks  
    North Scotland
    Emergency: 0800 300 999
    Central Southern England
    Emergency: 0800 072 7282

Individual LDC websites provide live updates and power-cut maps, so you can see if your LDC is aware of the problem and when they estimate power will be back on.

Be prepared

There are a few things that can make life a little more comfortable in the event of a power cut:

  • Keep a couple of torches with spare batteries in the same place (it's safer than using candles), so you can easily find them if the lights go out.
  • Make sure your mobile phone, tablet and/or laptop are charged, especially in bad weather when the risk of a power cut is more likely.
  • Store 105 in your phone. Remember, cordless phones are unlikely to work in a power cut, so use a phone with a cord or your mobile to contact 105.
  • Put together a power cut ‘emergency kit’, with a spare mobile battery pack (fully charged), extra torches, warm blankets and a first aid kit.
  • Avoid opening the fridge and freezer door to help keep the contents cold. Food should keep for around four hours in the fridge and 24-48 hours in the freezer if you can avoid opening them.
  • If it’s cold, make sure you keep warm. Add extra layers of clothing – you may even need hats and gloves if it’s really chilly and have blankets to hand.  Keep a close eye on anyone who is unwell, less mobile or very young.

Thankfully, most power cuts don’t last long, and you’ll soon be able to get back to normal. But being prepared and knowing who to contact can give you extra peace of mind when you’re left without your energy supply

What is the Priority Services Register and who should be on it?

The Priority Services Register is a free service from power suppliers to help vulnerable customers in need. It can be useful for power cuts as you could be given advance notice of planned cuts, for example when engineering work is carried out.

You can also get priority support in a power cut. You'll get a priority number to call 24/7 and be kept updated about what’s happening. You could get personalised support, including home visits or alternative heating and cooking facilities.

Each energy network maintains its own register. This is the company that supplies energy in your area and may be different from the company you pay your bills to. You will have to complete an application form for the network you are on.

You usually can be put on the register if you’re considered vulnerable, for example if you:

  • are of pensionable age
  • are disabled or chronically sick
  • rely on powered medical equipment
  • need refrigerated medicines
  • have a hearing or visual impairment or additional communication needs
  • are in a vulnerable situation
  • have children under five in your household
  • have someone in your household with dementia.

You can also be added to the register if you need extra support for a short period of time, for example while recovering from medical treatment.

Don't forget, if you move home you may need to register with a new network.

Frequently asked questions

Can I claim compensation for a power cut?

You may be able to claim compensation from your LDC depending on:

  • how long the power was off for
  • whether the power cut was planned.

If the power cut was caused by bad weather, you could get £70 if you were consistently without power for 24 hours. If it was a severe storm, you could get £70 if the power was off for 48 hours. You should then get £70 for every extra 12 hours you’re without electricity, up to a maximum of £700.

However, you can only claim for compensation if the loss of power was the LDC’s fault and you weren’t given notice. You can’t claim if the power cut was your fault – for example, you were doing a spot of DIY and cut through power cables. 

Find out more about how to get compensation for a power cut. 

Does my home insurance cover damage caused by a power cut?

If you have home contents insurance you may be able to claim for things like food in your fridge and freezer going off because of a power cut. 

If your business was disrupted by a power cut and you incurred losses, you may be able to claim on your business insurance

How long can food last in a freezer without power?

Food in a half-full freezer should be safe for up to 24 hours (48 hours if the freezer is full). However, the quality of the food may suffer, so be wary. 

Food in the fridge should be okay up to four hours without power. If the power cut lasts longer, perishables like meat, poultry, fish and eggs should either be used or may need to be thrown away. It’s better to be safe than sorry – so, if in doubt, throw it out

Does my home insurance cover storm damage?

If you suffered a power cut and damage to your home because of a storm, you should be able to claim repair costs on your home insurance

You might also be covered for temporary alternative accommodation. if you’re without electricity and heating, especially during the winter. Check your policy details to be sure.