Girl reading book using torch

In the dark about blackouts?

Here’s everything you need to know (and then some).

We all love a sunburnt country, and this land of sweeping plains. But with all that nice stuff comes some pretty extreme weather conditions, some of which can cause blackouts. You know, the kind that cut off your home’s electricity. Luckily, these days, planned and unplanned blackouts – also known as power outages – can be fixed a lot faster, too. Still, it’s possible to be caught off-guard – so it’s important to have a game plan in case the lights go out.

Okay, but how do blackouts happen?

Extreme weather (here’s looking at you, Australia) is often the reason for an unexpected blackout in your home. But power outages can also be caused by storms and strong winds disrupting power lines and knocking the power out. To avoid unnecessary stress it’s smart to have a plan in place if the unexpected does happen.

Planned blackouts on the other hand, are where the power distributor turns off your power to do emergency repairs, everyday maintenance or general upgrades. They give you advanced warning that the power will be out, so there are things you can do in advance to make it more comfortable.

6 tips to prep for a planned blackout.

  1. Start with the essentials.
    Let’s start with the really serious stuff. If you rely on life support equipment, or need power to look after pets, babies or someone else, you’ll need (and probably already have) a contingency plan. Now’s the time to put it into action.
  2. Keep it cool (real cool).
    If it’s going to be a hot day you can use an air-con ahead of time to cool your house down and shut doors and blinds to avoid extra heat. If it happens in winter, do the same with your heater to warm your home ahead of time.
  3. Charge everything and use your hotspot.
    Every mobile phone, laptop or portable backup battery – charge ‘em up. Seriously, you’ll thank yourself later. Plus, use your hotspot to stay online (we know it’s important, every tweet counts).
  4. Give your food a chance to survive.
    Avoid opening your fridge and freezer. Consider using an esky for your essentials, so the fridge door can stay firmly shut.
  5. Back up important files
    If there are files you can’t live without (for work or play) save them to an external storage device or the cloud and make sure they’re backed up before the power goes down. There’s no greater day-ruiner than opening the screenplay you’ve been sweating over for 6 months and seeing ‘This file is corrupted and cannot be opened’.
  6. Consider using other energy sources.
    Whether you use other energy sources for water pumps, equipment or cooking appliances (like that portable stove top you used for camping once or your good ole barbie) make sure they’re filled with fuel and ready to be used. Torches and battery-powered lamps are a solid go-to option, too.

Here’s a good plan for an unplanned blackout.

  1. First things first: Check your neighbour’s house.
    If their power is alive and kicking, check your safety switch to see if it’s tripped in your meter box. If you’d rather have someone else do it, ask a mate or neighbour, or your preferred electrician.
  2. Second things second: Check your distributor’s app.
    Here’s a fun fact most people don’t know: it’s your energy distributor (a separate company) who takes care of the poles and wires in your area, not your energy retailer (us). So in a blackout, your distributor has the lowdown on what’s happening and, more importantly, when it’s likely to stop happening so you can blow out the candles and get back to Netflix. Most energy distributors have apps with updates on blackouts.
  3. Stay away from fallen power lines.
    Always keep your distance because they could be live and very dangerous (this is not a drill). Best to give your local energy distributor a call so they can sort it out.
  4. Stay in the loop.
    Play it safe and keep yourself up to date by downloading the VicEmergency app (or your state equivalent) ahead of time. Plus, keep emergency phone numbers (including friends and family) on-hand so you can buzz them if you need.
  5. Step away from your fridge and freezer.
    Only open the fridge or freezer if it’s 100% essential. This way, your food and drink will stay as cold as possible for as long as possible. Oh, and if the power’s been off for some time, make sure whatever you’re about to eat, drink or cook with hasn’t spoiled during the blackout.
  6. Don’t be tempted to bring outdoor heaters inside.
    Never (ever) try to heat your home with a gas stove or outdoor gas heater. It’s a giant no-no as it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. And like most things with ‘poisoning’ in their names, you want to avoid it.
  7. Emergency situation? Call 000.
    Calling 000 is your safest bet in an emergency during an unplanned blackout.