Safety advice following a severe weather event
In light of recent storms that ravaged Victoria, ESV provides the following advice for households who are without power as the severe weather event continues.
Using a generator
Portable generators should be used with care as they pose safety risks including electrocution, fire risks or asphyxiation when not used correctly. Please follow this safety advice to manage the risks associated with the use of portable generators in power outage events:
- Portable generators should never be used indoors or in enclosed areas. They emit carbon monoxide that you cannot 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
- away from rain or wet conditions.
- Make sure your hands are thoroughly dried before touching the 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.
Supply has been restored but I still have no power
- If your house is still without power after electricity supply has been restored, check there is supply by looking at your smart meter. The smart meter will display lights and numbers if supply has been restored to your property.
- If the smart meter isn’t displaying lights seek the help of your electricity distributor. Check the ESV website if you are unsure of your distributor esv.vic.gov.au/safety-education/emergencies
- The problem could be a fault in the supply line to your property, if your neighbour has electricity and you don’t there may be a problem with the supply to your property.
- If the smart meter is displaying lights, ensure that the circuit breakers in the switchboard are in the ‘on’ position and if you have fuses check that the fuse wire is intact.
- Once you have power available at your property, check that your appliances are all operating correctly. If something is not operating as normal, unplug the item or turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse.
- If there are continuing power supply problems such as fuses blowing, circuit breakers and safety switches turning off, contact a registered electrical contractor. Only electricians licensed by Energy Safe Victoria can perform electrical work.
- If there are fallen powerlines stay more than 8-to-10 metres away. Standing near fallen powerlines can be fatal.
- Always treat fallen powerlines as live even when they are broken.
- Do not bring outdoor gas appliances inside your house. They can cause carbon monoxide poisoning or a fire.
- When there is a power cut, make sure heating and cooking appliances are turned off (there is a risk of fire if they come back on and there is no one at the property).
- If you smell gas, call your gas distributor. You can find the number on your bill or go to esv.vic.gov.au
Safely turning your power back on
If your property or home has suffered a power disruption, please ensure you follow these safety precautions.
- Check that there is no damage to any electrical cables, wiring or other electrical equipment. If you identify any damaged electrical equipment or cables:
- do not turn on the power
- do not touch the equipment or cable
- call a licensed electrician to test and make it safe.
- Unplug or turn off all electrical appliances and equipment before switching the power back on.
- This includes circuit breakers, RCDs (safety switches) or other switches on your switchboard.
- Turn on the main power switch.
- Turn on each circuit breaker one at a time.
- If you have an RCD, press and hold the test button for 5 seconds. This will turn the power off. The RCD must operate immediately on pressing the test button.
- Reset the RCD and press the test button a second time. If the RCD operates correctly and turns off the power, reset it and you can begin switching on electrical equipment.
- If the RCD fails the testing, it should be turned off and immediately replaced by a Registered Electrical Contractor (REC).
Solar Panel Installations
- If you identify any damage to, or have concerns about any equipment or cables associated with a solar system – do not go near the equipment or cables, even if the power is turned off to the house.
- Solar panels can produce energy during daylight hours and can pose a potential risk even if the power is turned off. Call a Registered Electrical Contractor (REC) to test and make it safe.
In the case of emergencies, households are advised to contact their electricity or gas distributor.
Relevant contact details can be found on electricity bills or on the ESV website: esv.vic.gov.au/safety-education/emergencies
ESV: 03 9203 9700 1800 800 158 (freecall) firstname.lastname@example.org