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.
Although built to stand up to extreme weather, our powerlines can sometimes be affected by lightning strikes, high winds, heavy rain, flooding and flying debris. These conditions could damage or bring down powerlines in your area, which can cause power outages and life-threatening electric shocks.
Follow these steps to protect yourself from powerlines during and after severe weather:
What to do in emergency situations
When severe weather damages the power network, know that we’ll be there to fix it as soon as we can. While we do our best to keep you safe and connected, it’s important to take steps to protect your own safety — before, during and after a severe weather event.
For more about electrical safety in severe weather and around the home, download our handy electrical safety guide. (PDF 2.2 mb)
Severe weather safety tips
Follow our safety tips below to prepare for severe weather and to stay safe.
Safety in heavy rains and floods
Electricity travels easily through water, which can be dangerous if water enters your home or business.
Wet appliances, wiring or switchboards can cause life-threatening electric shocks. Water can also damage the wiring inside your property or electrical appliances, making them dangerous to use, even after they are dry.
Remember, even if your property isn’t directly affected by a flood, we might still need to disconnect your power supply if another part of our network is flooded.
IMPORTANT: If your home or business has flooded and the mains power is still connected, contact us immediately on 13 22 96 to arrange disconnection.
During the flood
Take these precautions to stay safe around electricity during a flood:
- Keep well away If water comes near electrical equipment
- Don’t attempt to turn off your solar power system if any components are wet
- Never try to use an electrical appliance while standing in water, or barefoot
- Stay aware of overhead powerlines if you use a boat to cross floodwaters.
After the flood
Because flood waters can damage your electrical appliances and wiring, you’ll need to have a licensed electrical contractor inspect them before you reconnect to power.
Ask your electrician to:
- check any water-affected appliances. If in doubt, throw them out
- check any electrical fittings that were wet or submerged
- consider relocating your switchboard and wiring away from flood-prone areas of your property.
Note: If your home or business is damaged preventing the reconnection of power, have a licensed electrical contractor repair electrical damage. Notify us when repairs are complete so power can be restored.
Safety around lightning
Lightning is a major cause of damage to our electricity network. Lightning strikes can cause electricity to surge through powerlines and into your home or business. These surges can damage your appliances or cause life-threatening electric shocks.
Take these precautions to protect yourself and your electrical equipment from lightning damage:
Before the storm
- Unplug electrical equipment, including computers, stereos and TVs (including the external aerial).
During the storm
- Avoid using a landline telephone during storms
- Stay inside to avoid lightning strikes
- If you’re outside, stay away from trees and poles, as lightning usually strikes the tallest point.
You can also visit the Bureau of Meteorology warnings page for weather and emergency updates.
Safety in high winds
Sometimes, high winds can carry tree branches and other debris into powerlines. This could cut your electricity supply or bring powerlines down on your property.
You can reduce the risk of electrical accidents in windy weather by taking a few simple precautions:
Before the high winds
- Maintain your trees and shrubs, removing weak branches or 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.
During the high winds
- ‘Take care stay line aware’ and look out for overhead and fallen powerlines, especially around fallen trees and other debris.
IMPORTANT: Never trim trees near powerlines yourself. Instead, call us on 13 74 66.
Safety in bushfires
As well as the heat of the flames, bushfires can also cause electrical hazards. They can damage and destroy electrical equipment, putting you at risk of injury. Thick smoke can also reduce visibility, making powerlines harder to see.
Even if you’re not directly affected by bushfires, we might still need to disconnect your power supply if another part of our network is affected.
During the fire
- Stay away from any electrical equipment which is at risk of catching on fire
- ‘Take care stay line aware’ and look out for overhead and fallen powerlines
- After the fire, keep away from any exposed underground cables or melted pillar boxes.
You can feel confident that we are well equipped to deal with bushfires. We have a Bushfire Risk Management Plan (PDF 9.2 mb) and work closely with the Queensland Emergency Services and Rural Fire Services.
Backup power supply safety
Having a backup power supply is a convenient way to stay connected when your regular power supply is interrupted during a severe weather event. This could be a battery powered ‘Uninterruptible Power Supply’, a portable generator or a large fixed generator, depending on your needs.
Generators and carbon monoxide poisoning
If you’re using a diesel/petrol/gas generator, you’ll need to take extra precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators produce toxic carbon monoxide gas when burning fuel, which is colourless, odourless and can easily reach life-threatening levels without being noticed.
Take these steps to protect yourself from carbon monoxide when using your generator:
- Run your generator outside only
- Position your generator well away from open windows
- Always use a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm with the generator. This will alert you if levels become dangerously high
- Read our electrical safety generator guide (PDF 514.1 kb) before using your generator.
Solar power safety in severe weather events
During a natural disaster, your solar panels will continue to produce electricity even if the mains power has been disconnected. Combined with flood water or storm damage, a live solar PV system can pose a serious electric shock risk to anyone who enters your property.
Click on the grey bars below for what to do and when.
Before the event
When a storm or flood is coming, it’s a good idea to shut down your solar power system, if you can.
To do this, always follow your installer’s shutdown procedures. You should be able to find these at the inverter and/or on the main switchboard.
Most shut down procedures will ask you 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).
WARNING: If there’s a risk that flood water will reach inverters and cables, ask a licensed electrical contractor or Clean Energy Council accredited installer to fully shut down your solar PV array.
Contact your solar system’s manufacturer or installer if you have questions about your solar system’s shutdown procedure.
During the event
If your solar PV system becomes wet or submerged while still switched on, you need to treat it as a serious electric shock risk.
Remember, even if we’ve disconnected your mains power supply, your solar system will still produce electricity during daylight hours.
Take the following precautions to stay safe around your solar PV system during a flood:
- If any part of your system is underwater or wet, assume it is dangerous and keep your distance
- Don’t attempt to turn it off or touch any components or wiring
- If you’re forced onto a rooftop to avoid floodwater, stay away from solar panels and wiring.
After the event
If your solar PV system has been submerged
If any part of your solar PV system was inundated by rain or floodwater, residual moisture could cause it to become live. It could give you a serious electric shock, even if your mains power is disconnected.
Take these precautions to have it reconnected safely:
- Do not touch the system or try to switch it on or off, even if it looks dry. Assume it is live and stay away
- Arrange to have it recommissioned by a Clean Energy Council accredited installer
- If an accredited installer isn’t available, instead have it tested by a licensed electrical contractor
- Replace the solar PV system inverter if it’s been submerged or partly submerged.
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.
If your roof has been damaged
If your roof has been damaged, don’t try to reconnect your solar PV system. Any part of your system or roof could be live. You could get a serious electric shock from making contact, even if your mains power is disconnected.
Take the following steps to stay safe:
- Inspect the system carefully from a distance
- If you see damage or other cause for concern, contact your installer or a licensed electrical contractor immediately
- Once the system is safe to turn on, check the inverter regularly.
Need more information?
Visit the Electrical Safety Office website for more information and safety tips.