Why we have power outages
Victoria has the most reliable power supply in Australia, but sometimes power outages do occur.Power outages can be caused by severe weather, such as lightning, floods, heatwaves, bushfires or high winds, or by trees contacting powerlines. Animals, car accidents or digging near underground powerlines can also cause interruptions to power.
Restoring power is usually the responsibility of your local electricity distribution company, who owns and maintains the poles and wires bringing power to your home. This guide outlines some simple things you can do at home to help prevent power outages – and to prepare for those rare occasions when power is lost for a long time.
Help prevent power outages
Trees interfering with powerlines are a cause of many easily preventable power outages.You can help to reduce this risk by regularly checking the size and health of trees growing close to powerlines, and letting the appropriate people know if these trees need to be cut back or removed.
DO NOT attempt to remove or prune trees near powerlines yourself, even if they are on your property.
If the tree is on your property, contact a qualified tree clearing professional. If the tree is in the street, call your local council or electricity distributor. These groups can arrange for the trees to be pruned or removed according to safety regulations.
For more information on tree clearing, visit the Energy Safe Victoria website or call 1800 800 158.
Preparing to manage a power outage
Power outages can occur at any time. To prepare, you should have an energy plan and kit, which includes:
- Important Contacts List - download a copy of the Power Outages Important Contacts and place it somewhere safe and easy to find
- Access to a phone - such as a charged mobile phone that doesn’t rely on electricity to operate
- Alternative lighting - such as candles or torches (remember to keep naked flames away from flammable material and gas sources)
- Alternative cooking facilities and heating - keep in mind that some gas appliances may still require electricity to operate them. Always ensure gas connections on portable appliances are maintained and in good working order
- A battery-powered radio - stay tuned to news services to get updates on weather conditions and power outages
- Access to fresh water - If you use electricity to run a water pump, make sure you have an alternative source for fresh water
What if you have special needs?
If you require an uninterrupted supply of power because you:
- Are on life support equipment
- Have a medical condition that requires continuous power supply
- Have any other special needs
You should report your needs to your electricity supplier and make sure they have your up-to-date contact details.
What to do when you lose power - Be energy safe!
- Keep clear of fallen powerlines and keep others away, the powerlines may still be live, so call your local electricity provider (see the “Faults and Emergencies” number on your electricity bill)
- Check your neighbour’s house to see if they have also lost power. If your neighbour has power on, then check to see if your safety switch has been tripped
- Be careful when using candles and other open flames - keep naked flames away from flammable material
- Make sure appliances are turned off (because they could come back on when you are not there)
- Don’t try to connect temporary generators to household wiring. Engage a licensed electrician to do all electrical work. ‘Do It Yourself’ electrical work is very dangerous and illegal
- If the power has been cut due to storm damage to your house, get a licensed electrician to ensure it is safe before any repairs are carried out
Be safe with food
- Try to keep cold and frozen food cold. Move food from the fridge to the freezer. If food is still cold to touch, less than 5°C, it is safe to use.
- Once cold or frozen food is no longer cold to touch, 5°C or above, it can be kept and eaten for up to 4 hours and then it must be thrown away or, if it is raw meat, it should be cooked and eaten.
- Eat hot food within 4 hours of it being hot or throw it away.
- If power is restored when frozen food is still solid the food is safe to refreeze.
- If available, put bagged ice under food packages and trays stored in freezers and fridges if power failure lasts more than 1 hour.
- Place an insulating blanket over cold or frozen food where possible.
- Only open fridge and freezer doors when absolutely necessary,
this will keep the food and air temperature colder for longer.
- For more information on food safety visit the Department of Human Services website or call 1300 650 172.
Be a good neighbour
- Check and offer support to neighbours and relatives particularly those with special needs, such as elderly people and people with disabilities.
Who can help restore power?
Your electricity distribution company is responsible for the poles and wires carry electricity to your home and normally organises for the power to be restored. They can be contacted on the faults and emergencies number on your most recent electricity bill.
State Emergency Services (SES)
For storm and flood emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500. They can note the details and send help if necessary. General information on storms and floods can be obtained from the VICSES Flood & Storm Information Line on 1300 VIC SES or 1300 842 737
Life threatening emergencies should be reported to 000.
Your local council
Contact your local council website if you need information on emergency services available in your area, particularly if you are elderly, disabled or need special help.
Restoring power supply
If the power outage is caused by a fault with the poles and wires, your electricity distribution company will work to restore power as quickly as possible.
The time this takes can depend on factors such as how widespread the damage is, the severity of the damage, weather conditions and access to the area.
Customers who experience long or frequent power outages in a year may be eligible for Guaranteed Service Level Payments. To find out about your eligibility, contact your local electricity distribution company or visit Australian Energy Regulator website or call 1300 302 502.
You may also be eligible for other personal hardship emergency assistance. To find out contact the Department of Human Services on 1300 650 172 or visit their website.
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