Media Release: If the lights go out this summer, do you know what to do?

5 December 2019

Residents in the state’s west are being encouraged to prepare for extreme summer temperatures and the fire season by ensuring they know what to do if the power goes out in an emergency.

Electricity distributor Powercor plans year-round for summer and is assisting customers to get ready by issuing practical tips about how to prepare and recover in the event of unexpected power outages.

The tips advise how customers can plan for outages in order to stay safe and minimise inconvenience, as well as get back on with their day quickly once the lights come back on.

Following this guidance will ensure people know to stay away and report fallen powerlines, can access up-to-date information in an emergency, access drinking water and more. Tips include:

  • Download the VicEmergency app, sign up for Powercor SMS outage notifications, and keep emergency phone numbers handy;
  • Recharge phones and laptops so you can stay connected with family and friends;
  • Prepare a contingency plan if you rely on life support equipment or need electrical items to care for babies, people with disability, elderly or pets;
  • Have an emergency kit ready with cash for supplies, first-aid items, medications, torches, candles, matches, a portable radio and heavy-duty gloves;
  • Back-up computers and phones to keep data safe;
  • Consider alternative power sources for water pumps and cooking sources;
  • Make sure you know how to open your garage doors and gates manually; and
  • In the event of an outage, take care and stay clear of fallen powerlines and report them to us immediately on 13 24 12

Powercor’s Network Safety and Bushfire Mitigation Manager, Dene Ward, said even though the tips sounded simple, they could be easily overlooked in preparing for extreme weather events.

“There is so much information available about how to plan and prepare for a bushfire emergency that it’s easy to forget about what impacts a power outage can have too – like causing ATMs to go down,” Mr Ward said.

“Everyone needs to have a fire plan and maintain their property in line with Victorian Government and emergency service advice, but Powercor hopes its tips help residents feel they have an added safety net should the lights go out.”

Mr Ward said the network was designed and maintained to cope with summer weather, but extreme heat and weather events put additional pressure on the electricity network and could cause outages, while bushfires could also affect electricity supply.

“Over 1,000 people across our 14 depots in Western Victoria have been working throughout the year to get the network ready for summer, making sure we continue to deliver safe and reliable power to the community is our priority.

“If the power does go out, we are ready to respond quickly, and we encourage Western Victorian residents to be as prepared as possible.”

Powercor employee, Robert Stevens has a 10-acre property in Gisborne, and first-hand experience fighting fires, so he knows the importance of having a plan in place for summer.

“For 20 years, in the months before summer, I’ve made sure grass paddocks are slashed low, checked water pumps are fully operational, and prepared an emergency kit for everyone in the house,” Mr Stevens said.

“Having had my house under threat from fires before, I can’t overstate how important this preparation is for anyone living in an at-risk area.”

As part of its work to prepare the network ahead of the bushfire season, Powercor has cut more than 60,000 vegetated powerline spans to ensure vegetation is outside the required clearance zone.

Powercor has also inspected 193,970 poles and other assets, and continued work installing bushfire safety devices such as the Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) and Automatic Circuit Reclosers (ACRs).

REFCLs operated successfully during the 2018-2019 summer and will be operating again in high bushfire areas this summer. Powercor has also installed an additional 270 ACRs on certain rural powerlines to further reduce bushfire risk.

You can also find a wide range of practical written and video tips on how to prepare for summer here.