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Loss of Utilities

What is a Utility Outage?

At any time and with little warning you could unexpectedly face an outage of one or more of your utilities. Infrastructure such as Electricity, Water, Gas, Fuel, Transport, Telecoms, Food, Health and Financial services could all be impacted by any number of emergency or disaster events.  Supply of these items can also be affected by the failure of one or more of the others meaning there is potential for you to without multiple services for a prolonged period.

Loss of a single service can can have a direct impact on the infrastructure that supports your normal day to day routine.  In some cases, your ability to access clean drinking water, heating (or cooling), light and fuel can be directly impacted.

Why are utility outages considered an emergency?

Outages can be frustrating and troublesome, and they have the potential to last a long time. Prolonged outages can disrupt communications and transportation throughout the city, close retail businesses and cause food spoilage.  In extreme cases water supplies may become contaminated and medical devices could fail.

Without fuel many supply chains may be delayed leaving you without access to food or medicine for extended periods.  Retail networks, access banking services or community can all be affected by utility outages.  In cases where power is lost the ability to use phones and the internet may be drastically reduced.


Roles and responsibilities
The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, developed by the Council of Australian Governments, provides high-level guidance on disaster management to agencies with a role in emergency management. Foremost in the Strategy is the principle of all of society taking responsibility for preventing disasters.

In the context of Utility Outages:

People should be aware of their own risks and should follow advice from emergency services when responding to warnings.  The causes of utility outages are many and varied and predicting them is not always possible.

Maintain your property
It is very important that you maintain, to a reasonable standard, any utilities infrastructure, fixtures and fittings on your property.  This will minimise the effects of disruption to you and your family during an event.  When working you should always ensure you maintain a safe working environment before, during and after utility outages.

The monitoring and management of trees and plants on your property can minimise the likelihood of prolonged outages.  Never try to trim trees that are near power lines on your own as it is highly dangerous.  If a tree on your property is approaching power lines you should contact your energy provider or SA Power Networks.  If you think a street tree near your property needs attention, please let us know

Dial Before You Dig
There are thousands of kilometres of buried utilities beneath the surface that are vital to everyday living, including water, electrical, gas and communication networks. Dial Before You dig is designed to protect yourself and others from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines and helps to prevent unintended consequences such as injury to you or your family, damage to your property and utility service outages to the entire community, which may cause you to be liable for repair costs and fines.

To increase community resilience, individuals should actively plan and prepare for protecting their own life and property.  Resilience is also increased by knowing and being involved in local community disaster or emergency management arrangements, and volunteer roles.

Government agencies, local governments and communities
Organisations include utility outage risks within their Community Emergency Risk Assessment activities. This includes consideration within emergency management planning and land use planning.

Resilience is developed through land management and planning arrangements, assessment of risks, supporting individuals and communities to prepare for extreme events, and having effective education programs available.

Additional prevention tasks carried out by state and local government include:

  • Risk assessments to gain an appreciation of the impacts
  • Engaging with the community regarding utility outages
  • Working with communities to plan the management of prolonged outages
  • Providing emergency information and warnings
  • Ensuring an effective, well-coordinated response during prolonged outages
  • Helping communities to recover and learn following an outage to build their resilience to future events.

Whilst Council is not responsible for the supply or maintenance of any utilities or the critical infrastructure which provides those utilities, it can take a supporting role in planning and preparing for an outage.

Vulnerable people
There are many groups of potentially vulnerable people (e.g. older adults, people with disabilities, people living in poverty) whose unique needs may not accounted for in emergency plans.

Vulnerable people require more attention when they are experiencing an Emergency situation compared to everyone else.  Planning to help friends and relatives who are considered vulnerable contributes greatly to emergency resilience in communities.

Private Industry and businesses
Businesses play a fundamental role in supporting a community’s resilience to disasters. They provide resources, expertise and essential services on which the community may depend.

Businesses, including critical infrastructure providers, can also make a contribution by understanding the risks that they face and ensuring that they are able to continue providing services during or soon after a disaster.

Businesses should plan for the risk of disruption, and ensure arrangements are in place to maintain critical services where required.

The links below are designed to help businesses plan for emergency situations:

Business Continuity plans – A quick guide to impact analysis and plan development
Plan and prepare – State Government advice on how to protect your business