Keeping safe in severe weather

Cyclones, storms, bushfires, floods and other severe weather events are part of life in Queensland. So, it’s important you know how to stay safe when severe weather impacts our electrical network. Find out the steps you should take in different weather events, how to stay safe when using backup power sources and solar PV systems.

You should have a fully stocked Storm Kit ready and stored for the summer storm season. Download and print the Storm Kit Checklist (PDF 2.8 mb) to help prepare your kit.

Fallen powerlines

Powerlines can stand up to a lot of extreme weather, but at times they’re still affected by lightning strikes, high winds, heavy rain, flooding and flying debris. These can cause power outages or fallen powerlines, which can be deadly.

Report fallen powerlines immediately by calling triple zero 000 or us on 13 19 62. Stay at least 10 metres away and warn others about them. Remember they can be hard to see if they’re tangled in tree branches and debris.

Remember to ‘Take care, stay line aware’.

Severe weather safety tips

Follow our safety tips below to prepare for severe weather and to stay safe.

Heavy rains and floods

  • Contact your electrician if water is coming through electrical fittings
  • If flood water comes near electrical equipment stay well away to avoid the risk of electric shock
  • If your household appliances have been affected by water, have them checked by an authorised electrical contractor before using them. If in doubt, throw them out
  • If you use a boat in a flood, be aware of overhead powerlines
  • Consider relocating your switchboard and wiring if they could be vulnerable to flood waters.

IMPORTANT: If your home or business premises is inundated with flood water and the mains power is still connected, contact us immediately on 13 62 62 to arrange disconnection.

NOTE: While you might not be directly affected by flood waters, your power supply may be disconnected if part of the network has been affected.

Bushfires

  • Stay away from electrical equipment which is at risk of catching on fire
  • Look out for overhead powerlines when the smoke is dense
  • Once the fire has passed, stay away from any exposed underground cables or melted pillar boxes.

NOTE: While you might not be directly affected by bushfires, your power supply may be disconnected if part of the network has been affected.

We are well equipped to deal with bushfires. We have a Bushfire Risk Management Plan (PDF 479.0 kb) and work closely with the Queensland Emergency Services and Rural Fire Services.

Lightning

Lightning is a major cause of damage to the electricity network. To protect yourself and your electrical equipment, make sure you:

  • unplug computers, TVs (including the external aerial), stereos and any electrical equipment you don’t need to use, to avoid damage from a power surge
  • avoid using a landline telephone which can become highly charged if lightning strikes nearby
  • stay inside or away from trees and poles as lightning usually strikes the tallest point.

Use our lightning tracker to view real time lightning strikes in your area. In emergencies you can also go to the Bureau of Meteorology warnings page for weather updates.

High winds

High winds can carry tree branches and other debris into powerlines and bring entire trees down. Make sure you:

  • maintain your trees and shrubs. Get rid of weak branches and any trees that could fall onto your home in a storm
  • secure outdoor furniture, toys, trampolines, and garden equipment so they can’t get blown around in high winds.

IMPORTANT: Never trim trees near powerlines. Instead, call us on 13 12 53.

Backup power supply

It can be useful to have a backup power supply in case of an outage or other interruptions to your electricity supply. Some options include:

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), also known as a battery backup, provides backup power when your regular power source fails. A UPS usually only lasts a few hours, but it’s enough time to properly shut down protected equipment such as computers, data centres, telecommunication equipment or other electrical equipment. A UPS can cost anything from a few hundred dollars, for one computer, up to about $10,000 for a small networked UPS solution.

Small portable petrol/diesel generators

Small generators can be used to power appliances. They cost between a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Although they’re portable, they can be noisy, can emit harmful fumes and only generate enough power for a few small appliances.

Large fixed petrol/diesel/gas generators

Large generators can provide enough power to keep households and businesses running when electricity supply is disrupted. They’re essential for some businesses. But they can be expensive to buy; and they’re not portable.

Using generator’s safely

Generators emit carbon monoxide, which is odourless, invisible and potentially deadly. You should run generators outside only and well away from open windows. It’s also best to have a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm with the generator, to alert you if levels become dangerously high.

Before using a generator, read our electrical safety generator guide (PDF 514.1 kb).

Solar power safety

Preparing for a severe weather event

When a storm or flood is coming, shut down your solar power by following the manufacturer's or installer's shutdown procedures. These should be at the inverter and/or on the main switchboard.

A general shutdown procedure is to:

  • turn off the inverter AC mains isolator (this is usually found in the meter box)
  • turn off the photovoltaic (PV) array isolator (this is usually found next to the inverter).

If there’s a risk that water will reach the inverters and cables, also arrange to turn off the rooftop array isolator (if fitted).

If you have any questions about the shutdown procedure, contact the manufacturer or installer.

Click on the grey bars for what to do in the following situations.

After a storm

Following a storm, don’t try to reconnect solar PV systems if your roof’s been damaged. The roof may be live or residual moisture may have caused the system to become live.

Inspect the system carefully. If you’re concerned, call the installer or a licensed electrical contractor.

Contact a Clean Energy Council accredited installer to test or recommission the system, or a licensed electrical contractor to test that it’s safe. If it’s safe to switch the system back on, monitor the inverter to make sure the system is operating correctly.

During a flood

During a flood, don’t try to turn off a solar PV system if any of the components are covered in water or if parts of the system are still wet. This could cause a serious electric shock.

Don’t go near the system if parts are submerged. If you’re forced onto a rooftop to avoid floodwater, keep well away from solar panels and wiring.

Don’t assume your system is safe if we have disconnected supply. PV systems still produce DC voltage during daylight.

WARNING: Solar PV systems don’t rely on mains power to generate a DC supply. Ask a licensed electrical contractor or Clean Energy Council accredited installer to fully shut down the PV array.

After a flood

When flood waters start going down, don’t operate any switches, as residual moisture can cause solar PV systems to become live. You could get a serious electric shock, even if mains power is disrupted. Ask a Clean Energy Council accredited installer to recommission the system for you. There’s a list of accredited installers on the Clean Energy Council website.

If an installer isn’t available, ask a licensed electrical contractor to check that your system is safe to use.

REMEMBER: Don’t reconnect any solar PV systems unless a licensed electrical contractor has certified the installation is safe. Treat all solar PV installations as energised.

Need more information?

For more information, visit the Electrical Safety Office website.