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What to Do After a Power Surge

What homeowners can do following a power surge that damaged electronics, such as the one in North Redondo Beach this weekend.

A power surge that preceded a power outage that affected approximately 2,500 north Redondo Beach residents on Sunday morning caused damage to household electronics, according to comments left by readers on Patch.

The power surge and outage came after a driver crashed a car into a power pole, according to Southern California Edison.

With computers, cable boxes and even dishwashers fried from the surge, many homeowners and renters are now wondering who is responsible for the damage.

According to Vanessa McGrady, an SCE spokeswoman, those affected by the power surge in Redondo Beach need to submit a claim form at SCE.com/claims to be considered for reimbursement.

McGrady said that while SCE generally does not reimburse for damages caused by factors out of the company's control, each claim is thoroughly reviewed.

"Each claim is reviewed and considered on its own merit," McGrady said. "So it just depends on the cause of the outage and what the damage was."

According to SCE's website, the power company is usually not responsible for "losses caused by third parties including vehicles and construction equipment, as well as birds, animals and vegetation that come into contact with our equipment."

Nevertheless, McGrady said that in this case, claims could potentially be routed through the driver's insurance company.

To expedite the process, SCE recommends that those making claims gather all the necessary documentation such as proofs of purchase, repair estimates and invoices.

Unfortunately, claims are denied through SCE or the driver's insurance company, homeowners or renter's insurance policies may not cover the damage.

Mike Herman, an insurance agent with Allstate in Redondo Beach, said that as a general rule, homeowners insurance does not cover power surges unless that surge causes a fire.

"If you have a power surge and it creates a fire ... then you have a fire situation and a fire loss," Herman said. "If you have a short and a fire, then all of a sudden you have what they call an 'insured peril.'"

Herman, who has worked in the insurance industry for 46 years, said that when customers ask him about claiming damages from power surges, he  recommends they file a claim with SCE. He warned, however, that Edison will at first try to deny the claim.

"Edison has been pretty receptive years ago ... Nowadays, they try to deny (the claim)," Herman said. "But, in fact, they sometimes come around pretty good on it and make a concession on the appliance or TV or whatever the case may be."

As for other advice, Herman said that taking the necessary precautions to prevent a power surge from damaging electronics is critical.

"I highly recommend a power bar," said Herman.

Surge protectors—which differ from simple power strips in that they protect electronics from power spikes—can be found at most electronics retailers.

For complete details and instructions on how to submit a claim with Southern California Edison, visit SCE.com/claims

Laura Thomas November 27, 2012 at 12:38 AM
We are one of the households that was affected by the North Redondo Beach surge. And currently, I mean like right now, we are waiting for a heating contractor and appliance repairman to come to our house to evaluate the damage caused by the surge/outage. Although our power is back on, our washer and dryer are non-operational, as well as our house thermostat. Luckily, we had a super-duper surge protector on our brand new television, or we might have fried that, too. I agree that surge protectors are the way to go for most of your electronics, but as far as I know, there are no surge protectors for the items that are currently not working. Hopefully, the fixes will be minor in nature. However, the issue is one of liability - if SCE denies liability, then it would make sense that the driver (I almost called him or her a bad word) should be liable. But how do we as residents get the appropriate information? This article implies that SCE will somehow act as a conduit to the driver's insurance company, which is nice and all, but shouldn't this information be made available to us directly? I have a feeling we will, all told, spend about $300 or potentially a lot more, in fixes and replacement (yes, we have to replace the surge protector, but at least it served valiantly to protect our expensive television set). Not a huge claim, but one that we should not have to "eat". r
Nicole Mooradian (Editor) November 27, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Hi Laura, You should be able to order a copy of the incident report from the Redondo Beach Police Department. That may identify the driver. Personally, I would double-check your homeowners insurance policy—it may be one of the rare ones that covers power surges—and file a claim with SCE. If your washer/dryer plug into the wall, you might be able to get a heavy-duty surge protector to use for them. I'm not sure about the house thermostat, though!
Bob Boren November 27, 2012 at 01:13 AM
HI, I'm Laura's husband. We would probably have to go with a surge protector on the Heater itself....the thermostat is connected to the heater and gets it's power from that. I'm hoping that we just have a fuse problem with that heater. Worst case, if we have to replace a washer and dryer and a forced air heater, we are talking lots of money. And if the idiot who hit the pole has no car insurance and SCE walks away, that's going to be pretty nasty. The last two people who hit my car had no car insurance. Both of those accidents happened in Redondo Beach. Good advice on the Homeowner's insurance....we'll have to check that. Total items messed up: One Time Warner cable box, one surge protector, heater/thermostat, and front-load washer and dryer. This is a fairly new place with modern wiring - built in 2005.
Nicole Mooradian (Editor) November 27, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Yikes! Sorry to hear all that; good luck! (And as for the car accidents, I learned the wonders of uninsured motorist insurance when I was rear-ended in a hit-and-run in Arizona. If you've got that coverage, you might be able to talk to your insurance agent about reimbursing you for the deductible after you've filed your claim.)
Lisa S. November 27, 2012 at 04:05 AM
I recently had a whole home surge protector installed by my electrician. My power went out on Sunday morning, but the surge protector did its job.
Danny Geyser November 27, 2012 at 07:12 PM
For the record, here's a list of damages I suffered: Desktop computer and JBL 12" powered subwoofer (connected to Belkin SurgeMaster II Premeire surge protector), built-in microwave/range hood, Verizon FIOS (repaired now), motion sensor in porch light fixture, 27" TV, playstation (original), two light bulbs (porch, nite lite)
Paul Gerencher November 28, 2012 at 12:35 AM
This looks like a good investment http://www.surgeassure.com/
Paul Gerencher November 28, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Also here http://tinyurl.com/bqc4ek6
Bob Boren November 28, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Paul, I started researching these last night. I'll probably do it if I can handle it myself. Don't really want a 300-500 dollar bill right at the moment, and I suspect that is what an electrician will charge. Amazon has several of these that are well under 200 bucks. After being quoted almost 700 dollars to replace my thermostat by Mike Diamond, I found my model on Amazon for 32 bucks, and ordered it. I think I can put that in myself.
Albert Irwin November 28, 2012 at 06:43 AM
last year the power pole hit on knob hill took out a bunch of stuff at my church, including a copier. about 2 weeks later a thermostat died, & we had to replace it and a fuse in the heater. so some may not be out of the woods yet, as some things can get damaged & die later.
Rita Loy November 29, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Sometimes it is best to get an uninteruptable power supply They not only portect from a power surge but something that can be even worse a brown out. Because in a brown out the voltage decreases. This causes the amperage to increase. There is no surge protector can protect when the voltage drops. I lost a computer because of low voltage
Laura Thomas November 29, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Thanks for the reminder - I honestly think we, and others, will be figuring out the damage for some time to come. One thing I didn't know is that surge protectors can go bad over time. Another thing is this "whole house" surge protector mentioned above. Now people who live in areas of the country with lots of lightning strikes are familiar with these, but here in SoCal, we aren't, but maybe we ought to be if we live in Redondo Beach where it seems power poles get hit regularly. Could it be that they were improperly (or just inadequately) placed where they could easily be hit? Who's bright idea was this? I think there is probably some shared liability between SCE and the City of RB Dept. of Building/Safety, although I'm also pretty sure that most of these poles have been in place for decades. But it would be interesting to know about incidence rates in other areas. I really don't know if this is a problem other places. Thanks, Nicole for your comments. I just never knew we should have a surge protector on something like a washer/dryer. It seems so unlikely an item to blow, you know? Yet, I need to buy a new washer/dryer which isn't cheap. And yes, our HO insurance has now been informed and a claim has been made, although I'm sure we won't be happy with what we get since like a lot of us - we have a deductible. Laura Thomas
Laura Thomas November 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Yikes! Sorry to hear this about the brown out. That dovetails to the issue of the AES steam plant, actually, since if some folks have their way and we get rid of the AES plant, there is an increased risk of brown outs! Just sayin'. Laura Thomas
Cheryl Gran November 30, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Our insurance adjuster just left and we aren't sure what we'll have to end up paying on top of the $500 deductable. We lost our new refrigerator, dishwasher, built in microwave and coffee maker. All our electrical outlets and switches and our fuse box had to be replace as they were fried and not working. To get any information out of the police you need to fill out a form, present it in person at the RB police department with I.D., and $20. I'd like to know why the media is so disinterested in this incident. Is there a cover up going on here?
John Schreiber (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Cheryl, as I commented on the other article we wrote about this, I am in the process of getting the police report from RBPD. I will post it to both of these articles once I get it.
John Schreiber (Editor) December 03, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Hey all -- Sorry to hear about all these losses. I spent 45 minutes at the police station on Friday trying to get a copy of the police report but am not able to because I was not involved in the incident. I did talk to Chief Leonardi about it though and have some new info on what you can do to get a copy of the report here: http://patch.com/A-zZrz (I will also post this on the other article so people know).
Laura Thomas December 03, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Hello everybody - I think John has done some great service for us all because it looks like the City will be at least allowing us to give them some basic information and then we can become "involved parties" for the purpose of getting reimbursement for our losses, whether from SCE or the driver's insurance. Thanks again, John. I hope plenty of people will be reading this and that the City will publicize this to the residents in some other manners so that we can take care of the issue. Our costs are mounting up like everybody else's. Insurance companies will cover some of the costs up front but in the long run, the driver and perhaps SCE itself bear the liability. Laura Thomas
John Schreiber (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Thanks Laura... Glad I could help pass the information along. If you do get a copy of the form from the city, feel free to scan it and upload it to this article so everyone can see it/print it. I will also be following up with the police to see if they have the form ready yet.
David Carey January 01, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Does anyone have the insurance info for the driver that caused the initial accident? We've received the claim denial letter from SCE already. After speaking with our insurance agent - they indicated they will assist us with filing a claim against the driver's insurance - but I haven't any luck getting it. After reading the posting here - I will head to the RB PD and add us to the list of "involved parties". If anyone has new info - please post or email. Thanks
Jean Shultz January 07, 2013 at 03:00 PM
I spoke to the Police Department and we can get a copy of the accident report if we had damage do to this accident. They have a form for us to list items, with serial number, value, etc. ( pretty much the same as what we sent to Edison). The fee is reduced to $1.50 for the report. They want a record of all damage so you do need to go there and do this. I did get a copy of the accident report. I hope that you share this info with others who are also effected.

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