Everything you need to know about electricity outages

Australia is home to extreme weather conditions that can lead to unexpected power outages. From bushfires and severe storms to infrastructure failures, these disruptions can significantly impact daily life and present numerous challenges.

Being prepared for power outages in Australia involves understanding the risks, planning ahead, and taking necessary precautions. Imagine coming home after a long, exhausting day, looking forward to some relaxation, only to have the power suddenly go out.

Such blackouts are unpredictable and can leave households vulnerable, but with the right preparation, you can reduce their impact.

This guide will provide you with essential information on power outage preparedness in Australia, including basic steps to take and key contacts for when the lights go out.

What is an electricity outage?

Australia's power grid is made up of several interconnected networks serving different regions. The National Electricity Market (NEM) covers the eastern and southeastern states, while smaller grids operate in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and some regional areas.

Although the power supply in Australia is usually reliable, the vast distances and challenging climate can lead to occasional disruptions.

An electricity outage occurs when the flow of electricity to a home or business is disrupted for various reasons. When an entire neighbourhood or city experiences this interruption, it is commonly called a 'blackout.'

Depending on the cause and response efforts, these outages can last from a few minutes to several weeks, typically affecting specific regions or power grids.

Blackouts can disrupt residences, commercial buildings, and critical infrastructure like hospitals and transportation systems. Causes of power outages are varied, including severe weather conditions, equipment failures, routine maintenance, and sometimes intentional shutdowns for safety concerns.

Common causes of electricity outages

Power outages in Australia can happen for various reasons, including:

  • Severe weather events. Cyclones, floods, storms, and bushfires can damage power infrastructure and disrupt supply. High winds, lightning strikes, heavy rains, and falling trees can also damage power lines and equipment.
  • Grid and power demands. High electricity usage during heat waves or cold spells can strain the grid, potentially leading to local or widespread outages.
  • Infrastructure failures. Ageing infrastructure and equipment faults can cause unexpected power failures. Transformers, circuit breakers, and other components may fail due to wear and tear or unexpected malfunctions.
  • Heatwaves. Extreme heat increases electricity demand, which can overload the grid and cause outages.
  • Maintenance and upgrades. Planned outages for maintenance and upgrades are common and usually announced in advance. These are necessary for ensuring the grid's reliability and safety.
  • Human error. Accidents like vehicle collisions with power poles or damage to underground cables during excavation can cause power disruptions. Mistakes by operators or improper maintenance can also lead to outages.
  • Wildlife. Animals, especially birds and possums, can cause short circuits or damage equipment, leading to power outages.

Preparing for an electricity outage

Power outages can greatly impact individuals, communities, and businesses by disrupting essential services, communication, and even endangering lives.

Preparing for power outages is essential, not just for convenience but for safety. Here’s how you can get ready:

Put together an emergency kit (or two)

Every home should be equipped with an emergency kit for power outages. One is great to have somewhere everyone can get to, but having a second emergency kit on the other floor of the house or in the garage is smart.

Your emergency kit should include:

  • Multiple flashlights and batteries.
  • Candles with matches or a lighter. You’ll need to exercise caution trying to manage lighting these in the dark.
  • Portable chargers. You’ll need your phone to have enough battery to call for help. Keeping your phone or tablet charged is a must do portable chargers are a must-have.
  • Bottles of water and non-perishable food. Cans, boxes of food and drinks should absolutely be a part of your emergency kit.
  • Blankets and spare clothing. There should be enough blankets to keep everyone warm along with a spare set of clothing and jumpers. If you end up with an outage in the middle of winter, it just makes good sense to have cold weather clothing. It’s also a good idea in case you have to move somewhere else temporarily.
  • A First Aid kit just makes sense in an emergency. In a blackout, injuries can happen so having bandages and antiseptic to hand is smart.

In the main emergency kit, you should also keep a wallet of ID documents, insurance papers and medical records - just in case.

Prepare backup power solutions

Investing in backup power solutions can be crucial for keeping essential appliances, like refrigerators, operational during power outages.

You’ll also need to think about investing in backup power options like portable generators or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems to ensure you have temporary electricity for medical devices.

Develop a communication plan

Developing a communication plan for power outages is essential. Start by designating an emergency contact outside your area and ensuring all family members know how to use alternative communication methods like text messages, social media, or two-way radios.

Next, figure out a safe meeting place and compile a list of important contacts, including family, neighbours, emergency services, and utility companies. This preparation enhances safety and reduces anxiety during power outages.

Create an evacuation plan by identifying safe routes and destinations in case you need to leave your home during a prolonged power outage. Take into account the special needs of family members with disabilities, medical conditions, or other specific requirements, particularly those who rely on power-dependent devices.

Stay informed about outages in your area

To check for electricity or gas outages, visit the website of your local energy distributor. They are responsible for safely delivering power to your home or business and maintaining power lines, pipes, and transmission grids.

Most distributors have a power outage map on their website. You can enter your street, suburb, or postcode to get regular updates on any reported outages in your area. You can stay updated about outages in your area by:

  • Registering for alerts. Sign up with your utility company to receive real-time outage notifications via email or text message.
  • Watching the weather. Pay attention to weather forecasts and warnings, as severe weather often leads to power disruptions.
  • Following community updates. Join local community groups or follow social media channels focused on emergency information to stay informed about local conditions and updates.

Emergency contacts by state

It can help to know who to contact in your time of most need, so let’s take a look at the fault numbers for electricity distributors by state:

New South Wales

DistributorContact Number
Ausgrid13 13 88
Endeavour Energy13 10 03
Endeavour Energy13 20 80


DistributorContact Number
CitiPower13 12 80
Powercor13 24 12
AusNet Services13 17 99
United Energy13 20 99


DistributorContact Number
Energex13 62 62
Ergon Energy13 22 96

South Australia

DistributorContact Number
SA Power Networks13 13 66


DistributorContact Number
TasNetworks13 20 04

Northern Territory

DistributorContact Number
Power and Water Corporation1800 245 090

What to do during an electricity outage

During a power outage, it's important to stay calm and take necessary precautions. Always put your safety first by keeping away from fallen power lines and damaged electrical equipment, assuming all power lines are live and reporting any downed lines to authorities.

Avoid opening refrigerators and freezers during an outage; a full freezer can keep food frozen for about 48 hours if unopened. This will prevent you having to replace everything in the freezers that could spoil.

During an outage, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns instead of candles to prevent fire hazards, ensuring you have enough batteries. In extreme weather, maintain a comfortable indoor temperature by closing curtains or blinds for insulation, layering clothing or using blankets to stay warm, and staying hydrated and seeking cooler locations if it's hot.

How long will an electricity outage last?

An electricity outage can vary in duration, but it will often depend on what caused it in the first place. Many outages are resolved quickly within a timeframe provided by your energy distributor.

In some cases, however, the duration can be influenced by factors like equipment faults, environmental impacts, third-party damage, cable digging, or weather-related issues.

Australia frequently experiences extreme weather events such as bushfires, cyclones, floods, and hailstorms. These harsh conditions can significantly impact the nation's energy infrastructure, bringing down power lines and damaging grids, which may result in prolonged outages.

Since each weather event is unique, it's challenging to predict the exact duration of an outage, but your energy distributor will usually keep you informed throughout the process.

Are some outages planned?

Scheduled power outages are essential for the maintenance of energy infrastructure, much like servicing a car to ensure efficient and safe electricity and gas supplies to homes and businesses.

These planned outages are typically listed on your distributor's website and include details such as the start and end dates and times, affected suburbs or postcodes, the number of customers impacted, and an ID or job number for reference.

Knowing this information can help you better understand and prepare for future outages.

Contact Compare Energy

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