What to do in a power blackout

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 13 December 2019

How to prepare for a blackout, and what to do when it hits.     

Power outages don’t mean you have to be left in the dark when it comes to surviving blackouts

The first step is being prepared – and then knowing what to do during and after a power cut. 

Blackouts can be widespread – as experienced by 200,000 Victorian households during a heatwave that overloaded the system in January 2019 – but they can hit anywhere at any time.

Severe weather such as storms, high winds, lightning, floods and heatwaves are often to blame, especially if wild weather causes trees to fall across powerlines. 

Two children sit around a table in candlelight in a blackout

As Victorians brace for summer outages, here’s what to do in a blackout.

Before an outage ensure you have:

  • A charged mobile phone.
  • Alternatives to mains lighting such as torches, LED lanterns or candles.
  • A battery-powered radio for updates on outages and weather.
  • A generator or battery power if you have life-saving equipment.
  • A list of important phone numbers, including power distributors.
  • If it’s a planned outage, set your freezer and fridge to the coldest setting and freeze some of the items from your fridge.

During an outage: 

  • Turn off and unplug all electrical appliances to prevent damage from a power surge when electricity is restored.
  • Check if your neighbours have lost power and if they haven’t, check that your safety switch hasn’t tripped.
  • Offer support to neighbours and relatives, especially the disabled and elderly.
  • Move food from fridge to freezer and only open fridge or freezer doors when necessary.

After an outage:

  • Food that is still cold to touch (less than five degrees) can be eaten within four hours but after that must be thrown away.
  • Freezers set at minus-15 degrees can keep foods at safe temperatures for one to two days.
  • Frozen food that has defrosted can be refrozen if it is still cold to touch or less than five degrees.
  • People who experience long or frequent power outages in a year may be eligible for compensation. Electricity distribution companies on average pay out $10.5 million in compensation annually. Check with your electricity distribution company.

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