Power surge causes damage

Freedom Township, residents adding up costs from spike

EAST FREEDOM — A recent power surge in the Freedom Township area continues to have an impact.

The incident, which occurred during the early morning hours of Oct. 13, caused thousands of dollars of damage.

The surge, caused when a fallen tree took down a 23,000 volt conductor wire that fell onto a 4,000 volt conductor wire, knocked out the traffic light at the intersection of Dunnings Highway and Johns­town Road (Route 164), causing some $22,000 in damage, said Freedom Township Supervisor Ed Bender.

Tel Power has been able to make repairs, so for the time being the intersection has a four-way flashing red light, Bender said.

Bender said the power surge caused about $6,000 worth of damage to electronics at the township municipal building and more than $10,000 damage to the nearby fire hall.

“A lot of people had a lot of damage,” Bender said.

Bender, who lives in McKee, did not escape the damage.

“It took out my refrigerator, dryer and a couple of TVs. It blew the refrigerator receptacle to pieces. This is the second time it hit me. A few years ago, I lost four TVs and a microwave,” Bender said. “I had at least $2,000 damage.”

Bender said his homeowner’s policy has a $1,000 deductible in the event of a power surge.

“A power surge is basically a spike in your home’s electrical current. The spike is very brief, usually lasting less than a thousandth of a second, but it can still cause damage to your home and appliances, said Scott Surgeoner, spokesman for First Energy Corp., the parent company of Penelec.

Power surges can occur for several reasons.

“High-power electrical devices can create a spike in the electrical current when they’re switched on or when their motors kick on.

“Refrigerators, air conditioners and even space heaters can cause a power surge strong enough to damage electrical systems,” Surgeoner said. “Lightning strikes are another common cause of power surges. A lightning strike doesn’t have to occur near you to cause a spike in your electrical current. In fact, striking close to a power line can cause a spike. A single strike can cause a spike strong enough to burn out a computer monitor, router and even your television.”

Surgeoner said unless Penelec is negligent in some way, customers are responsible for any damages — typically through their homeowner’s or business owner’s insurance plans.

Many homeowners and business owners have surge protection in their coverage.

“Some companies offer an enhanced endorsement to cover damage from power surges off the premises. It is not a bad idea. When you buy it, it covers other things such as backed up sewer lines,” said Mark Gingrich, treasurer of the Warren A. Gingrich Agency Inc., Altoona.

Enhanced endorsements typically cost between $75 and $125 year, Gingrich said.

“I would say about 70 percent of our customers have it. We want them to have a decent policy,” Gingrich said.

First Energy offers its customers a program to cover damage from power surges.

Surge Assist offers plans starting at $5.49 per month.

Surge protectors can be helpful.

While plug-in surge protectors offer some protection, they can lose effectiveness over time, and outfitting every electronic device in your home with a high-quality, up-to-date protector can be costly. Many insurance policies require deductibles that are higher than the replacement cost. For many homeowners, a comprehensive protection plan that covers the repair and replacement of surge-damaged electronics offers the greatest peace of mind, according to First Energy.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.


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