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How Does That Work?

What causes ‘circuit trips’?

February 1, 2022 | Jason Kuiper | how does that work, power outages, T&D
what causes a power outage, circuit trip

When there’s not an obvious cause, like a storm, a common question from customers is, “Why is my power out?”

A number of things can cause an outage: stormy weather, animals interfering with equipment, tree limbs in power lines or equipment trouble.

The grid

OPPD’s electrical system is made up of circuits. These circuits serve large numbers of customers in the metro area, as many as 1,500 and 2,000 customers per circuit. Circuits in rural areas can contain as few as couple hundred customers per circuit.

All of OPPD’s circuits have breakers, a large-scale version of the main circuit breakers found in your home. They perform the same job and provide the same protection. Circuit breakers act as safeguards to help prevent damage.

When an object or animal comes in contact with OPPD equipment on a circuit, the circuit breaker will shut itself down in order to protect the circuit and the rest of OPPD’s system.

If the threat to the circuit clears itself quickly, the circuit breaker turns itself back on and power flows as usual. This quick opening and closing of the circuit causes what is known as a “trip”, “blip” or “momentary.”

Fact check

A common misconception about circuits and outages is that they cannot or should not happen on a clear, blue-sky day. But outages can occur on these days, usually due to excessive heat, tree or animal interference, faulty equipment, or vehicle and construction accidents.

Rocks, tree roots, ground settling, faulty equipment or contractors digging into underground equipment can all cause underground circuit trips. The latter happens frequently in the spring and summer seasons when construction is more active.


OPPD monitors its system 24 hours a day, and records all circuit trips to each customer’s account. As such, reporting “momentary” circuit trips to the Customer Care Center is not necessary. But in the case of longer outages, OPPD always recommends customers report the outage to make sure the utility is aware.

Outages can be reported at 1-800-554-6773, online at or via the OPPDconnect app.

OPPD knows that circuit trips can be a huge inconvenience. Unfortunately, circuit trips are the nature of the beast for power companies. They are a necessary safe guard. The same way your home wouldn’t pass inspection without the installation or proper labeling of your main breaker, a power company could not operate without this equipment.

But OPPD is constantly taking proactive steps to maintain the reliability customer’s expect. These steps include pole and line replacement programs and routine inspections. Such work is ongoing to ensure OPPD is there when customers need them.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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