What to do in a power outage or blackout

littel girl reading under a lamp in a fort

David Toscano

Posted February 15, 2022


Sometimes scheduled, sometimes sudden and dangerous, and always inconvenient - here’s what to do when the power goes out.
 
Power outages and blackouts always seem to happen at the most inopportune times. Whether you’re in the middle of your favourite TV series or movie, cooking dinner or on the computer for work or study, a power outage or blackout can range from a minor, short inconvenience to something more dangerous and prolonged. 
 
Occasionally, your electricity provider may give you advance warning of a scheduled power outage to undertake essential maintenance work – enabling you to get organised for an outage that typically lasts just a few hours.

Sudden and severe weather such as storms, floods, strong winds, bushfires, heatwaves and other events however are all major contributors to power outages and blackouts in Victoria, with the potential to disrupt power to affected properties for days, and even weeks in their aftermath. 
 
Depending on the nature of the power outage or blackout, planning and preparedness can reduce the impact on your household, while comprehensive home insurance coverage may cover you for damage caused to your property or contents during things that cause you to lose power such as fires, floods or storms.

What to do when the power goes out


Before a power outage 

Charge all communication devices 

Key communication devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops and spare batteries should be fully charged prior to a scheduled or predicted power outage.  

Put together an emergency kit 

Put together an emergency kit of supplies that includes first aid essentials, medicines, toiletries, clothing, blankets, torches and portable power banks. Also ensure that you have a battery-powered radio on hand to listen in for updates from Emergency Services. 
 
If the power outage is due to a severe weather event, organise key documents, medical information, home insurance and pet plans, and gather personal items that are sentimental to you in case you need to quickly leave your home. 

Purchase non-perishable food and drink 

A prolonged power outage may render the contents of your fridge or freezer unsafe to eat. Ensure you have enough supply of non-perishable food and drink on hand, including water. 

Get your home and vehicles prepared 

Minimise damage to your home and key contents by preparing in advance of a severe weather event that may cause a power outage. This includes parking your vehicles undercover in a garage or carport, securing all external doors and windows, drawing curtains and securing loose items in the backyard including outdoor furniture, bikes, trampolines, sporting equipment and tools.

Most doghouses and birdcages are not sturdy enough to protect your pets from something like a storm – so bring your pets inside.

 

people sitting on couch watching a laptop

Before a known power outage, charge all mobile phones, laptops and tablets. Image: Getty

During a power outage 

Check the source and nature of the outage  


It’s important to understand whether the power outage is localised to your home, street, suburb or state. Note down the time as soon as you notice a power outage, check your home’s safety switch and get in touch with your neighbours. 
 
Keep your ears peeled for updates from emergency services via radio, and in the case of a severe weather event, check the Bureau of Meteorology Victorian Warnings Summary on your mobile phone. The VicEmergency website and mobile app also provide emergency warnings and information for Victorians.

Turn off and unplug electronic devices 

Turn off all electrical appliances and unplug them at the switch to safeguard your home and contents against a power surge, particularly if the power outage is caused by a storm. 
 
You may wish to keep a light or alarm clock on, or stay close to a fixture in your home like an oven clock, so that you’re aware of when power returns to your property.

Avoid opening your fridge and freezer 

It’s important to keep the doors of your fridge and freezer closed so that food and drink remains cold for as long as possible. The contents of your fridge can spoil quickly during a power outage and become unsafe to consume. 

 

woman opening a fridge

During a power outage or blackout, avoid opening the fridge and freezer. Image: Getty

After a power outage 

Check your fridge and freezer contents

Once power comes back to your home, take stock of your fridge and freezer contents and note how long the power outage was.

While freezer contents, such as frozen food, may be safe to consume for several hours or days as it thaws, fridge contents can start to spoil within as little as 2-4 hours.  
 
If you’re in any doubt about the safety of any of your fridge or freezer contents, dispose of them immediately. 

Can a solar battery power my home during a blackout?

Solar power systems automatically stop working when there’s a power blackout on the grid, to stop power flowing back into the grid. However, many new solar battery storage systems come equipped with a back-up option, which can provide backup power during a power out. Before you invest in solar power in your home, check whether the battery has a back-up option. 

RACV Home and Contents Insurance can safeguard you from financial loss in the event of something unexpected.
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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. RACV Home and Contents Insurance issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.