Loss of Utilities
Loss of Utilities
What is a Utility Outage?
At any time and with little warning you could unexpectedly face an outage of one or more of your utilities. Infrastructure such as Electricity, Water, Gas, Fuel, Transport, Telecoms, Food, Health and Financial services could all be impacted by any number of emergency or disaster events. Supply of these items can also be affected by the failure of one or more of the others meaning there is potential for you to without multiple services for a prolonged period.
Loss of a single service can can have a direct impact on the infrastructure that supports your normal day to day routine. In some cases, your ability to access clean drinking water, heating (or cooling), light and fuel can be directly impacted.
Why are utility outages considered an emergency?
Outages can be frustrating and troublesome, and they have the potential to last a long time. Prolonged outages can disrupt communications and transportation throughout the city, close retail businesses and cause food spoilage. In extreme cases water supplies may become contaminated and medical devices could fail.
Without fuel many supply chains may be delayed leaving you without access to food or medicine for extended periods. Retail networks, access banking services or community can all be affected by utility outages. In cases where power is lost the ability to use phones and the internet may be drastically reduced.
What can I do?
Roles and responsibilities
The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, developed by the Council of Australian Governments, provides high-level guidance on disaster management to agencies with a role in emergency management. Foremost in the Strategy is the principle of all of society taking responsibility for preventing disasters.
In the context of Utility Outages:
People should be aware of their own risks and should follow advice from emergency services when responding to warnings. The causes of utility outages are many and varied and predicting them is not always possible.
Maintain your property
It is very important that you maintain, to a reasonable standard, any utilities infrastructure, fixtures and fittings on your property. This will minimise the effects of disruption to you and your family during an event. When working you should always ensure you maintain a safe working environment before, during and after utility outages.
The monitoring and management of trees and plants on your property can minimise the likelihood of prolonged outages. Never try to trim trees that are near power lines on your own as it is highly dangerous. If a tree on your property is approaching power lines you should contact your energy provider or SA Power Networks. If you think a street tree near your property needs attention, please let us know
Dial Before You Dig
There are thousands of kilometres of buried utilities beneath the surface that are vital to everyday living, including water, electrical, gas and communication networks. Dial Before You dig is designed to protect yourself and others from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines and helps to prevent unintended consequences such as injury to you or your family, damage to your property and utility service outages to the entire community, which may cause you to be liable for repair costs and fines.
To increase community resilience, individuals should actively plan and prepare for protecting their own life and property. Resilience is also increased by knowing and being involved in local community disaster or emergency management arrangements, and volunteer roles.
Government agencies, local governments and communities
Organisations include utility outage risks within their Community Emergency Risk Assessment activities. This includes consideration within emergency management planning and land use planning.
Resilience is developed through land management and planning arrangements, assessment of risks, supporting individuals and communities to prepare for extreme events, and having effective education programs available.
Additional prevention tasks carried out by state and local government include:
- Risk assessments to gain an appreciation of the impacts
- Engaging with the community regarding utility outages
- Working with communities to plan the management of prolonged outages
- Providing emergency information and warnings
- Ensuring an effective, well-coordinated response during prolonged outages
- Helping communities to recover and learn following an outage to build their resilience to future events.
Whilst Council is not responsible for the supply or maintenance of any utilities or the critical infrastructure which provides those utilities, it can take a supporting role in planning and preparing for an outage.
There are many groups of potentially vulnerable people (e.g. older adults, people with disabilities, people living in poverty) whose unique needs may not accounted for in emergency plans.
Vulnerable people require more attention when they are experiencing an Emergency situation compared to everyone else. Planning to help friends and relatives who are considered vulnerable contributes greatly to emergency resilience in communities.
Private Industry and businesses
Businesses play a fundamental role in supporting a community’s resilience to disasters. They provide resources, expertise and essential services on which the community may depend.
Businesses, including critical infrastructure providers, can also make a contribution by understanding the risks that they face and ensuring that they are able to continue providing services during or soon after a disaster.
Businesses should plan for the risk of disruption, and ensure arrangements are in place to maintain critical services where required.
The links below are designed to help businesses plan for emergency situations:
Things you can do now to prepare for utility outages:
Understand your risk
Perform a review of your day to day activities and the luxury items you use on a regular basis. Loosing these items for just a few hours can have an impact on your wellbeing. Consider the loss of all items powered by electricity, fed by water or fuelled by gas or petrol and make a plan to manage the loss for 48 hours.
The South Australian Emergency Management Sector encourages every household, business and farm to have a written emergency plan.
It is worthwhile having a plan for what you would do if your usual ways of getting groceries, petrol or medical supplies are disrupted or you methods of communication are cut off. Here are some suggestions of things you can do to prepare for a utility outage.
- Put together an emergency kit - See our guide in the links section
- Be sure to have temporary care lined up for your pets
- Know how to manage your utility connections
- Fix potential hazards in your home or business that could trip you up
- Investigate if your insurance policy protects you against this risk
- Having a battery operated or wind-up torch and a battery powered or wind-up radio in your emergency kit at home will help until things get back to normal.
- Keep mobile phones, laptops or tablets fully charged - so you will have use of battery power for a short time at least if there is a power cut.
- Any device which uses a USB charger can be connected to your car by using an adapter or by connecting a portable battery.
- A non-mains powered landline telephone will help you stay in touch during any disruptions to your power supply. (The NBN won’t work during a power outage)
- Help your friends and family to think ahead and learn the steps that can be taken to be prepared.
- During a weather event, listen to the local ABC radio station to keep up with the latest weather conditions.
It is not possible to predict the timing and size of an outage, notifications are provided by most providers, who monitor and report on outages within South Australia. This is done on a 24/7 basis for the purposes of emergency warnings to alert governments, emergency services and the general public of emergency situations.
SA power Networks
SA Power Networks own and operate the electricity distribution network in the City of Port Adelaide Enfield.
- For information on power outages in your area, you can visit the SA Power Networks website, or their Outage Report Map
- SA Power Networks offer SMS Updates to let you know if planned work is cancelled and can provide approximate power restoration times if the power goes out.
- You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter to get weather warnings and information about events affecting the power in your area.
Australian Gas Networks
Australian Gas Networks (AGN) is the primary distributor of natural gas in the City of Port Adelaide Enfield.
Information on gas outages, leaks and emergencies can be found on the Australian Gas Networks website.
SA Water manages the water and sewerage services in the City of Port Adelaide Enfield.
Information on current major faults and scheduled works can be found on the SA Water website.
Medical Requirements and Life Support
If you or someone you know relies on medical equipment, here are some extra tips to best prepare and manage your needs during an outage:
- Set up a back-up plan for when the power goes out.
- Make sure any medical equipment that needs power has battery back-up or a generator. Personal or medical alert systems may also be affected during an outage.
- Know the phone number and location of your nearest hospital.
- Keep emergency phone numbers for your friends, family, doctor, fire department, police and ambulance service handy.
- Always have a phone available that doesn’t rely on mains power. Cordless phones, and those connected to the NBN, don’t work during power outages.
- Be prepared to leave your home if an extended outage occurs.
Protect your finances
Emergencies are really expensive and can become a significant long-term burden. To ensure that your finances are safeguarded you can protect your main income source by taking out life insurance and income protection insurance. You should also give consideration to the costs of cleaning up damaged property and replacing lost items to protect your family if the household is affected by an emergency.
Check your insurance cover - A quick guide to understanding Insurance
If you believe you are affected by the widespread loss of utilities, you should:
- Listen to local radio updates (on a battery or wind-up radio) and act on advice and instructions from the utility providers or emergency services
- Be prepared to make alternative temporary living arrangements if necessary
- Gather essential items together as well as your emergency bag if you have one
Who do I Contact?
If the problem appears to affect only you and/or your immediate neighbors, you should contact your service provider.
Click here for Information on how to report an issue to SA Power Networks
Call this number to report an issue 1800 GAS LEAK (1800 427 532)
Click here for Information on how to report an issue to SA Water
- Remain Calm
- Follow any directions given to you by your utility providers
- Don’t try and fix the issue yourself
- Stay clear of any powerlines that have fallen and report it immediately by calling 13 13 66
- If you can smell gas call 1800 GAS LEAK (1800 427 532) immediately
- An individual exposed to natural gas for a prolonged period of time might experience the following symptoms: dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache, and irregular breathing. Exposure to extremely high levels of natural gas can cause loss of consciousness or even death.
- Street lights and traffic lights may not be working. Drive to the conditions.
- Don't use lifts. If a lift you are in stops suddenly follow the emergency procedures listed in the lift.
- If you leave your home during a utility outage you should shut off your utility supply. It could create further danger should the utility be restored when you are not home.
- A refrigerator and freezer will keep food cold longer if you keep the door closed. Avoid opening doors to check the contents. Click here for more advice on food safety
- Remember any person undertaking work involving gas and power utilities must be appropriately licensed.
- Your hot water system can be affected by any utility outages. Ensure you follow the instructions provided to safely manage your service.
- Your communications network may fail during a utility outage. Many communications networks (including the National Broadband Network) are reliant on electricity. You may still be able to use alternative communication methods, Mobile networks, instant messaging or SMS text messaging, although this may also be affected.
- Try to avoid using candles or naked flames of any kind to provide light, this increases the risk of fire of explosion
- If you experience a loss of water turn off all your taps, including the mains supply.
Take action for any pets relying on power (such as tropical fish) to ensure their needs are met.
Everything you will need to know about managing your pets in an emergency can be found on the RSPCA website
There is also some additional information on our website
All agencies will work in a swift, compassionate and pragmatic way to help communities recover from devastation. Communities will need to learn, innovate and adapt in the aftermath of disastrous events.
SA Power Networks
For power outages longer than 12 hours, you may be eligible for a guaranteed service level payment. You don’t need to apply for the payment – SA Power Networks will send it to you within three months if you are eligible.
Remember hospitals, aged care facilities and schools may also be affected by the event and may need the support of the community.
Your own support group of friends, family and neighbours may not be available to you as they could have to manage their own recovery efforts.
- Remember any person undertaking work involving gas and power utilities must be appropriately licensed.
- If advice is given to boil drinking water, bring water to a rolling boil for a minimum of one minute and allow it to cool before drinking.
- Do not turn on any lights or power points until you are sure there is no electrical damage, turn the power off at the mains if you are unsure.
- If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise:
- open windows
- don't use any electrical appliances as they create a spark
- turn off the gas at the meter or bottle
Continue to follow your own emergency plan and when it's safe:
- Make use of the supplies from your emergency kit
- Start your recovery and clean-up
- Seek relocation support from friends and family if your house isn't safe to live in
- Help others, including neighbours
If you cannot return home
The Department of Human Services
The SA Housing Authority Department can assist with accommodation in crisis situations. The department brings together a range of services and policies designed to support vulnerable people and to help build resilient communities. More information can be found on these services can be found on the SA Gov website.
This department also offers a large number of services designed to assist you in recovering from an emergency situation including relocation and displacement advice, information on Volunteering and support to replace documentation. Find out more about how they can help you by visiting their Disaster Recovery website Disaster Recovery website.
Other offerings provided include Youth Justice, Disability and Reform, and Community and Support services.
In the recovery stages of an event people with trade skills can become a very important resource for the community.
In the case of large scale events; State and Local Government resources will be deployed to clean-up and repair operations in public areas. Support that these agencies can offer for clean-up and repair on private properties is extremely limited, because of this volunteers are at the forefront of strengthening disaster resilience in Australia. They can assist neighbors in repair and recovery of property, clean-up and debris removal and supply distribution.
Non-government organisations (NGO’s)
Many NGO’s organise volunteers during the recovery stages of a disaster and Australians often turn to them for support or advice and the dedicated work of these agencies and organisations is critical to helping communities to cope with, and recover from, a disaster. Australian governments will continue to partner with these agencies and organisations to spread the disaster resilience message and to find practical ways to strengthen disaster resilience in the communities they serve.
If you would like to volunteer to help in any way after a large scale event please contact one of the following organisations:
Industry and businesses
If you, your customers or suppliers are affected by the emergency event you should enact your Business Continuity Plan to speed up your recovery.
Certain types of event may cause panic purchasing which could have an adverse effect on area of your business and your ability to re-stock your products through your suppliers. Transport disruptions may also cause delays in supply.
Protect your finances
There might be financial assistance available from governments and other agencies after an emergency; it’s usually small and targeted at immediate needs. It won’t be enough to replace your home or valuables. Thinking about how you can cover financial losses caused by an emergency will save you a lot of stress and burden.
If you have insurance cover for your property and possessions, contact your insurer as early as possible.
Emergency and disaster assistance
The following contact details may be useful in the recovery stages of an event
National Disaster Assistance
- Australian Government disaster recovery assistance hotline call 180 2266
- Disaster Recovery Payment Can provide a one-off, non-means tested payment for eligible adults and children who have been adversely affected by a major disaster.
- Disaster Assist Provides information on assistance for current disasters.
- National Registration and Inquiry System - NRIS registers, finds and reunites family, friends and loved ones after an emergency. It is managed and operated by Australian Red Cross.
- People evacuated in an emergency (or people trying to locate family or friends) can phone the Red Cross Inquiry Centre on 1800 727 077 for callers in Australia or international callers on +61 393 283991.
Long Term Recovery
There may be instances where recovery from a disaster can take longer than anticipated. Be prepared!
While no one likes to talk about it, emergencies can cause loss of life. This can have emotional and practical impact to you and those around you. Ensuring you have life insurance and an up to date Will can help to ease the burden on those left behind.
There may also be things that affect you normal daily routine such as:
School and child care closures
Enforced work place closures
Injury or disability caused by the emergency event
The following contacts are always available (not just in an emergency) to help those in need:
- Kids Helpline Call: 1800 551 800
- Lifeline Call: 131 114
- Mental Health: Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service (ACIS) Opening hours: 24 hours Call: 131 465
- Parent Helpline Call: 1300 364 100
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline Call: 1800 882 436
For further information on this topic, or if you have any questions, please call our helpful Customer Services team on 8522 9211 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.