Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Power outages can occur for many reasons, including unplanned outages due to severe weather, unexpected technical faults or planned essential maintenance works.

With many people now restricted to their homes due to the coronavirus, it is a difficult time to be without power, even for a short time.

Electricity businesses are currently deferring any non-essential works. If maintenance works are found to be essential, it is necessary that these works take place now to ensure the grid continues to operate effectively.

Electricity distribution businesses have a statutory obligation to ensure the safety of their networks. They will continue to perform essential works to ensure, for example, a secure energy supply, community safety and bushfire mitigation.

Distribution businesses are required to provide customers with notification of any planned works in advance and, given the number of people currently based at home, are working to minimise the duration of works and potential impact on customers.

Refer to our tips below on how to keep your food safe when the power is out.

Finding your electricity distributor

If you are not sure who your electricity distributor is, we can help you locate them.

Preparing for a planned power outage

Before doing any essential maintenance, your distributor will provide you with notification of any planned works in advance. Given the number of people currently restricted to their homes, they are working to lessen the time of works and the resulting impact on customers.

If you receive notification for a planned power outage, we have created a kit to help you prepare for a power outage.

Your guide to power outages - brochure (PDF, 1.1 MB)

View the full power outages info-diagram (PDF, 128.2 KB)

What to do during a power outage

  • Check your neighbour's house to see if they have also lost power. If your neighbour has power on, check to see if your safety switch has been tripped.
  • Be careful when using candles and other open flames – keep naked flames away from flammable material.
  • Make sure appliances are turned off.
  • Don't try to connect temporary generators to household wiring. Never use a generator inside or try to modify extension leads to connect power to household wiring.

Be safe with food

  • Only open fridge and freezer doors when absolutely necessary - this will keep the food and air temperature colder for longer.
  • Try to keep cold and frozen food cold. If food is still cold to touch (less than 5°C), it is safe to eat.
  • In an extended outage, consider moving food from the fridge to the freezer.
  • Once cold or frozen food is no longer cold to touch (5°C or above), it can be kept and eaten for up to 4 hours and then it must be thrown away or, if it is raw meat, it should be cooked and eaten.
  • If power is restored when frozen food is still solid the food is safe to refreeze.
  • If available, in an extended outage, place an insulating blanket over cold or frozen food or put bagged ice under food packages and trays stored in freezers and fridges.
  • More information about food storage and preparing food is available on the Better Health website or call the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 364 352.

Be a good neighbour

Check and offer support to neighbours and relatives - particularly the elderly and people needing extra care.

Keeping the elderly and vulnerable safe

If you need an uninterrupted supply of power because you:

  • are on life support equipment
  • have a medical condition that requires continuous power supply or
  • have any other special needs

You should:

  • let your electricity retailer  (the company you pay for your electricity) know your needs and make sure they have your up-to-date telephone numbers and contact details
  • make sure you have a plan in place, in case there are prolonged power outages

Safe use of a generator

Energy Safe Victoria has advice on how to use a portable generator in a power outage event.

  • Use portable generators with care as they pose safety risks including electrocution, fire risks or asphyxiation when not used correctly.
  • Never use portable generators indoors or in enclosed areas. They emit carbon monoxide you can’t see or smell and may cause carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation very quickly.
  • Keep the generator:
    • out of dry grass to prevent the exhaust from igniting the grass
    • dry and stored on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure and
    • away from rain or wet conditions
  • Make sure your hands are thoroughly dry before touching a portable generator.
  • Only use heavy-duty outdoor rated extension cords that are in good condition and rated in watts or amps at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
  • Never modify an extension cord to plug into household wiring.
  • Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall socket or connecting to the switchboard, as this may result in back-feed that can risk the safety of utility workers and neighbours i.e. those connected to the same local network.
  • Ensure fuel is stored in proper safety containers and away from ignition sources (e.g. natural gas water heater). Turn it off and allow the generator to cool down before refuelling.

Power outages as a result of storms or bushfires

  • Keep clear of fallen powerlines and keep others away.
  • Be careful with temporary generators.
  • If there has been significant damage to your property, make sure a licensed electrician checks that it is safe to turn your power back on.

Frequently asked questions about power outages

Victoria has the most reliable power supply in Australia, but sometimes power outages do occur.

Power outages can be caused by severe weather, such as lightning, floods, heatwaves, bushfires or high winds, or by trees contacting powerlines. Animals, car accidents or digging near underground powerlines can also cause interruptions to power.

During storms or fires, damage to energy infrastructure can cause local supply availability to be less than peak demand for power. In response, some customers may need to have their power switched off, usually for a short period of time, to help balance supply and demand during the peak period. 

The Victorian Government also has additional emergency powers available if there is a serious threat to power or gas supplies. As with water, it can impose restrictions if a major shortfall in energy supplies were imminent.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), AEMO and Energy Safe Victoria work together through established processes during emergencies.

Trees interfering with powerlines are a cause of many easily preventable power outages.

You can help to reduce this risk by regularly checking the size and health of trees growing close to powerlines, and letting the appropriate people know if these trees need to be cut back or removed.

If the tree is on your property, contact a qualified tree clearing professional, if the tree is in the street, call your local council or electricity distributor. These groups can arrange for the trees to be pruned or removed according to safety regulations.

For more information on tree clearing, view Energy Safe Victoria's Powerline and vegetation management or visit the Energy Safe Victoria website or call 1800 800 158.

Power outages can occur at any time. To prepare, you should have an energy plan and kit, which includes:

  • Access to a phone, such as a charged mobile phone or land line that doesn't rely on electricity to operate.
  • Alternate lighting, such as a torch or a battery operated light.
  • Alternative cooking facilities and heating. Keep in mind that some gas appliances may still require electricity to operate them. Always ensure gas connections on portable appliances are maintained and in good working order.
  • A battery-powered radio. Stay tuned to news services to get updates on weather conditions and power outages.
  • Access to fresh water. If you use electricity to run a water pump, make sure you have an alternative source of fresh water.
  • Important contacts. Complete the list provided in this brochure and keep these numbers somewhere safe and easy to find in case of a power outage.

If you require an uninterrupted supply of power because you:

  • are on life support equipment;
  • have a medical condition that requires continuous power supply; or
  • have any other special needs

You should:

  • Advise your electricity retailer of your needs (the company you pay for your electricity) and make sure they have your up-to-date telephone numbers and contact details.
  • Make sure you have a plan in place, in case there are prolonged power outages.

Be energy safe

  • Keep clear of fallen powerlines and keep others away. The powerlines may still be live, so you should call your local electricity distributor (see the "Faults and Emergencies" number on your most recent electricity bill).
  • Check your neighbour's house to see if they have also lost power. If your neighbour has power on, then check to see if your safety switch has been tripped.
  • Be careful when using candles and other open flames – keep naked flames away from flammable material.
  • Make sure appliances are turned off (because they could come back on when you are not there).
  • Don't try to connect temporary generators to household wiring.
  • Engage a licensed electrician to do all electrical work. 'Do It Yourself' electrical work is very dangerous and illegal.
  • If the power has been cut due to storm damage to your house, get a licensed electrician to ensure it is safe before any repairs are carried out.

Be safe with food

  • Try to keep cold and frozen food cold. If food is still cold to touch, less than 5C, it is safe to use.
  • Move food from the fridge to the freezer.
  • Once cold or frozen food is no longer cold to touch, 5c or above, it can be kept and eaten for up to 4 hours and then it must be thrown away or, if it is raw meat, it should be cooked and eaten.
  • Eat hot food within 4 hours of it being hot or throw it away.
  • If power is restored when frozen food is still solid the food is safe to refreeze.
  • If available, put bagged ice under food packages and trays stored in freezers and fridges if power failure lasts more than 1 hour.
  • Place an insulating blanket over cold or frozen food where possible.
  • Only open fridge and freezer doors when absolutely necessary, this will keep the food and air temperature colder for longer.
  • For more information visit food safety or call the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 364 352.

Be a good neighbour

Check and offer support to neighbours and relatives particularly those with special needs, such as elderly people and people with disabilities.

Important contacts

Record all the contact telephone numbers you need during a power outage in the list below and keep this somewhere safe and accessible.

CONTACTWHENTELEPHONE NUMBER
Faults & Emergencies number on your electricity bill (your local electricity distributor)For information about power outages 
Your local councilFor information on emergency services available in your area, particularly if you are elderly, disabled or need special help 
Your electricity retail companyTo report special needs if you require uninterrupted power. Make sure they have your up-to-date contact details. 
SESFor storm and flood emergency assistance132 500
VIC SES Flood & Storm Information lineFor general information on storms and floods1300 VIC SES
or
1300 842 737
Emergency ServicesFor life threatening emergencies000
Department of Health and Human ServicesFor information on food safety1300 364 352

Page last updated: 17/04/20