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.
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.
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.
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.
This includes cutting back vegetation from poles and wires, as well as clearing vegetation at the base of poles.
For everyone’s safety, we continue to operate more cautiously as bushfire weather escalates.
On a Fire Weather Day, when the Fire Danger Rating is forecast to be very high or greater, we won’t turn power back on after an outage without carefully considering any risks. 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.
Some regional powerlines are hundreds of kilometres long, so this can take some time.
Our restoration practices to find and address the cause of outages are further restricted when the Department of Fire and Emergency Services declares Total Fire Bans and local government authorities declare Harvest and Vehicle Movement Bans. In these circumstances, we need to wait for bushfire and heat-related risk conditions to ease or the bans to be lifted before we can patrol the powerline or attempt to restore power. This is to ensure the safety of the community and our crews. Therefore, 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 FAQs provide some information on how you can prepare for an extended outage.
Need to prepare your own property for bushfire season? The Department of Fire and Emergency Services 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.
If you experience an outage lasting 12 continuous hours or more, you may be eligible for an $80 payment under the State Government's extended outage payment scheme.