Bushfires happen every summer, they can start suddenly and without warning.
The Western Australian summer can be unforgiving. The combination of extreme heat, dry conditions and vast expanses mean that our community must work together to reduce the risk of bushfires that can spread and potentially cause damage. We all have a part to play.
That’s why every year we implement our bushfire mitigation strategy to reduce the risk of bushfire. This strategy includes a mix of smart network settings, proactive management of poles and wires in high/extreme bushfire zones and changing how we operate in response to fire restrictions.
Here are some of the actions we take to reduce the risk of bushfires.
We prepare high risk bushfire zones before summer
Every year before bushfire season, our crews are hard at work preparing high and extreme bushfire risk zones to reduce the likelihood of a network-related spark that could cause a fire.
cutting back vegetation from poles and wires
clearing vegetation at the base of poles
inspection of assets in high and extreme fire risk areas
pole replacement and conductor replacement as needed
We make network settings more sensitive to improve safety (however, this can increase outages)
Most faults on the electricity network are temporary, for example when a falling branch strikes a powerline and causes a momentary short circuit.
They only affect the network briefly and there is often no permanent damage. Our network is designed to automatically detect and isolate these faults. Even though attempting to re-energise the network may create a spark, in normal conditions the risk of starting a fire in doing so is very low.
What happens when there is a fault during bushfire season?
During bushfire season, we modify settings that monitor the electricity network to make them more sensitive.
When there is a fault or other interference during this period, the more sensitive settings ensure that power is interrupted faster than usual, and the power will remain off instead of being automatically restored.
This reduces the likelihood of starting a fire but results in more frequent outages that may last longer.
These changes have the greatest impact on customers in regional communities where electricity is supplied by powerlines that travel through high and extreme bushfire risk areas, often over long distances.
Our response during bushfire weather conditions
For everyone’s safety, we continue to operate more cautiously as bushfire weather escalates.
During bushfire season, there are a number of fire and movement warnings that we consider when assessing risk and impact our activities:
Total Fire Ban: During bushfire season, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) may issue a total fire ban. Only where it is deemed safe, Western Power has an exemption to undertake planned and unplanned activities during a total fire ban. Before carrying out any work, Western Power undertakes a robust risk assessment to ensure any activities will be safe for the community and our employees. If work can be safely carried out, it will be within the limitations of a Total Fire Ban. A Total Fire Ban requires certain controls be put in place including the requirement of a fire suppression unit or water source to be nearby.
Harvest and Vehicle Movement Ban (VMB): these bans are issued by the local government authority (LGA) and mean that vehicle movement can only take place under specific conditions. This can result in residents experiencing longer outages due to our repair and restoration practices being limited. In these instances, power may not be restored until that evening or the next day, depending when it is deemed to be safe enough to do so.
Fire Weather Warning: a Fire Weather Day is when the Fire Danger Rating is forecast to be very high or greater. On these days, we won’t turn power back on after an outage without carefully considering any risks to ensure our activities won't generate a spark. This includes not allowing the network to automatically attempt to turn the power back on until we have sent a crew to patrol the powerline, either by vehicle or helicopter, and find the cause of the fault. The impact may be that we are unable to re-energise a line, or conduct other activities, until the fire risk has reduced. Some regional powerlines are hundreds of kilometres long, so this can take some time.
In the event of an outage during these conditions, you may be without power for an extended period of time, possibly until late in the evening.
Our first priority is the safety of our crews, you and your community.
Here are some of the steps we take to repair and restore power after an incident.
How do we restore power?
We identify any hazards and make them safe.
Repair work starts
This could include replacing conductors, poles or stringing new powerlines.
Start restoring power
After assets are repaired, we will start restoring power where safe to do so.
Bulk customers restored
If we can fix a fault that will connect 5,000 customers, we will do this first.
Are you bushfire ready?
Need to prepare your own property for bushfire season? The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has developed resources for property owners to be bushfire ready.
For advice on how to prepare your property, daily updates of areas affected by fire restrictions and details on emergency situations, visit the Emergency WA website.
How you can help prepare for bushfire season
Keep vegetation pruned back. Cut long grass and prune back trees so they are a safe distance from powerlines. Learn the clearance zones for a safe minimum distance.
Clear your roof gutters and remove rubbish from around your property.
Be prepared for an outage - have an emergency water supply, learn how to operate automatic garage doors or gates without power, keep a torch and spare batteries handy. For more information on how to prepare, visit the DFES website.
If you see a fallen / damaged powerline or an emergency situation affecting the electricity network, stay clear and make the safe call on 13 13 51 (24/7).
If you see a spark or fire in vegetation, no matter how small, call 000 immediately.
If you experience an outage in bushfire season, please be patient. We understand it can be inconvenient and frustrating, but we will restore power as soon as it is safe to do so.
What we can do to help
If you experience an outage lasting 12 continuous hours or more, you may be eligible for an $120 payment under the State Government's extended outage payment scheme.