Power can be interrupted for a variety of reasons. During storms, branches and other debris can be blown into powerlines and power poles; bush fires or car accidents, where vehicles collide with a power pole are also common causes of power outages. For all major incidents we make regular reports to the media so they can pass on the news to the community. These media releases can be found here.
Customers should not rely on mains power during high fire conditions. It is recommended that households in high fire risk areas have their own petrol or diesel generators available in order to use pumps for fire fighting purposes. More information is available on the DFES website.
The most common causes of power outages include:
Yes, during an emergency or crisis, and in the aftermath, Western Power crews work 16 hour shifts on rotation to ensure restoration work continues 24 hours a day.
When power goes out, we use clear guidelines to determine the order of repairs. First the site of each fault must be made safe – for our crews and for the public. The priority list is as follows:
The actual duration of any power outage is affected by a number of factors including:
The estimated restoration times relating to postcodes are only ever an estimate as the network in a ‘postcode area’ has numerous powerlines and these lines are not necessarily all interconnected. Restoring power to a line will return power to some customers, in one street, but will not necessarily restore power to the neighbouring street.
We recognise it is frustrating to read the message “Restoration time: unknown”. An unknown restoration time message is often a result of extensive damage to the network when crews are attending to many faults caused by major incidents such as a storm or fire. In such cases, Western Power crews must first make each site safe before work can commence on a priority rating system (see above). When there are many faults in a suburb, repair work on one fault will bring back some properties but not all and therefore it is not possible to give an estimated restoration time for a suburb that is relevant for all affected properties. In regional areas, the length of each long line often needs to be patrolled from the ground or the air to ensure no hazards are touching the line before it can be safely re-energised
When the network is damaged, Western Power crews must first assess the damage and make each area safe before restoration can commence. Electricity can be deadly and making each site safe is always the priority. Once the site has been made safe crews prioritise work focusing first on rebuilding the major lines that connect the most customers to the network. A major line can have as many as 2,000 customers connected to it so Western Power crews work to rebuild them first. Once the major lines (the backbone of the network) have been repaired, crews then work on the smaller lines and then on individual customer lines.
In country areas, lines can be 40 kilometres or more long and have as few as 10 customers connected to them. Major storms or lightning strikes often damage several sets of power lines over a widespread area. Helicopter and ground patrols are usually required to visually inspect lines before power is restored to ensure there are no safety issues. In times of strong winds aerial restrictions sometimes apply that limit our use of helicopter patrols. As a result of all these factors, restoring power to regional areas can often take longer than more densely populated areas.
During the summer months, particularly on days when the risk of fires is heightened, some of Western Power’s work practices alter in the interest of public safety.
While keeping the power on is a core focus for our crews, there may be some delays in restoring power after a fault on high fire risk days, particularly in high bushfire risk areas.
On high risk fire days Western Power must visually inspect the length of the powerlines before turning the power back on.
It is important that the crews check each line to ensure there are no branches or debris touching a line that could cause an electrical fault when the power is restored.
We will work as quickly as possible to remove this risk and restore power to those affected as soon as it is safe to do so.
Ways to stay aware and prepare
Information from the public can help us maintain a safe and reliable network so please report any fallen or damaged powerlines to Western Power on 13 13 51 immediately.
You can help prevent power outages by:
Some outages may only last a few seconds, but disrupt appliances such as clocks, which then need to be reset.
In most cases, the cause is a fault that is recognised by our system. A protection device is activated, shutting the power off to protect infrastructure from potential damage. It can also help moderate bushfire hazards.
If the fault 'passes' - for example a branch blows across a line and falls to the ground - the protection device can 'reclose' which restores power to the line. Sometimes this operation, known as an 'automatic reclose', may try to fix the fault two or three times. If unsuccessful, the protection device will 'lock out' and our crew will locate and manually restore the power supply.
While we understand this situation can be frustrating, momentary interruptions mean larger and longer power outages can be avoided.