We deliver a comprehensive bushfire mitigation plan every year to reduce the risk of fire during summer. The plan consists of a mix of smart network settings, proactive management of poles and wires in high/extreme bushfire zones and a risk-based response to fire restrictions.
More sensitive settings improve safety but 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. However, about 30 per cent of faults are more significant and supply is interrupted until the cause can be found and addressed.
Our network is designed with equipment 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.
As part of our commitment to safety and reducing bushfire risk, we modify settings that monitor the electricity network to make them more sensitive during bushfire season. 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.
Preparing 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.
This includes cutting back vegetation from poles and wires, as well as clearing vegetation at the base of poles.
Escalating bushfire weather conditions
For everyone’s safety, we continue to operate more cautiously as bushfire weather escalates.
On a Fire Weather Day, 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 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 authorities declare Vehicle Movement Bans. In these circumstances, we usually have to wait for bushfire risk conditions to ease or the bans to be lifted before we can patrol the powerline or attempt to restore power. This means you may be without power for an extended period of time, possibly until late in the evening.
Are you bushfire ready?
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.
What we can do to help
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.
How to stay in touch
Update 20 November 2017 - 1pm
We have restored more than 6,000 customers since the wild storms struck the area on Saturday night. There are another 10,000 to go with many individual jobs to fix.
We have one major line to repair from our Piccadilly substation and then all lines from that site will be repaired. All going well, this will see electricity restored for a large number of customers in Boulder by this evening.
Fresh crews are onsite in Kambalda and we are also aiming to have power to most of the town by this evening. But there is damage across a wide area which is hampering our restoration efforts.
As we move through and systematically return power to the network there may be some frustration from homes and businesses as parts of suburbs will come on before others. This is because they are fed from a different line. In addition, some suburbs with underground power are fed from damaged overhead lines.
This is what has happened in parts of Piccadilly and Lamington in Kalgoorlie. We understand the confusion this is causing but we ask for continuing patience as we work to return network power.
In preparation for restoration, we ask homes and businesses to please make sure that RCD’s have been reset and property damage repairs are made by a qualified electrician.
We cannot reconnect service lines to homes if your private connection is not safe.
We also have three electrical inspectors that will assess the work done to private residences to make sure the connection is ready and safe for network connection.
Our control centre will systematically re-energise parts of the network once they are cleared and made safe by crews.
Although the majority of hazards have been cleared there are still repairs that need to be completed to return some customers to network power. The widespread nature of the damage means some individual homes will be without power for several days. Most schools in the region are closed today. But we are hoping to have the bulk of the Goldfields region with power by today.
We have also had some customers inquire about vouchers and compensation. Western Power's depot in Kalgoorlie is operational only and does not have any of these forms.
Customers who are eligible for the 12 hour extended $80 outages payment from the State Government can access those forms from our website. This payment is not designed to compensate for all losses. It is an acknowledgement of the inconvenience of long outages. You should contact your insurer to inquire about further damages claims.
If you see a fallen powerline of damaged pole call make the safe call to Western Power on 13 13 51 or if it is a life-threatening emergency, please call 000.