Why do outages happen more often and take longer to resolve during bushfire season?
More sensitive settings improve safety but increase outages
Most faults on the Western Power 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 electricity 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.
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 Total Fire Bans and Vehicle Movement Bans are declared. 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?
We have partnered with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, the Department of Parks and Wildlife and volunteer firefighters to promote the importance of preparing your property for bushfire season.
This year’s campaign focuses on Steve, a bushfire survivor from Meelon, Western Australia, whose house was destroyed by fire in 2007. He was unprepared. When another bushfire threatened his property in 2016, Steve was prepared and his home was spared.
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