How to handle a blackout

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How to handle a blackout

Yesterday many of our customers across Hornsby and the North Shore experienced a total blackout, with no electricity for close to 20 hours. We’ve outlined a few tips to prepare you for a blackout next time it happens.

Check your surroundings

As a first point of call, you need to assess if the outage is an Ausgrid issue or something to do with the electricals in your own home. Check with neighbours. If they also don’t have power, chances are there is an outage affecting some to many homes in your immediate area, so you are not alone. Often the cause is a fallen tree or powerline nearby, so report it to Ausgrid, your local council or electricity provider but stay away from the general area. You can also check the Ausgrid website to see if they have reported and are aware of the outage. They are great at keeping you updated on the status of the outage as well, so you can stay informed.

Food safety

Many food items can spoil quickly when not kept under proper conditions, so do your best ensure that refrigerated or frozen food is kept as cold as possible. As a general rule, if food is still cold to touch, it is safe to use. We suggest shifting important food items from the fridge to the freezer, as well as keeping the fridge door closed as much as you can. The Australian Institute of Food Safety recommends the following general guideline:

  • If the power was out for less than 2 hours, it’s okay to refrigerate or consume the food
  • If the power was out between 2 and 4 hours, the food is okay to consume but don’t put it back in the refrigerator
  • If the power was out for more than 4 hours, discard the food

“If in doubt, throw it out”, it’s always better to throw it out rather than risk getting sick. Double check your refrigerator is correctly set to low temperatures in order to ensure that the food in it stays as fresh as possible should a power outage occur.


Have charged battery powered torches and camping lanterns ready to use and close to hand in case of another blackout, especially if it happens at night. Avoid using your phone torch, as it can siphon a large amount of battery life, and you never know how long you may need your phone to last. We suggest avoiding using candles due to the possible fire hazard.

Save your phone

Use your smartphone’s data connection to check for updates from your provider on their website or your local news source but after that, try and conserve your phone battery. Switch your phone to power-saving mode and reduce the screen brightness to save battery life.

Turn off appliances

You don’t want appliances like TVs to suddenly come on in the middle of the night, so go around and turn off any appliances that were on before the outage. Also, an unanticipated power surge can affect the hardware of certain appliances like TVs and laptops.

Check on those more vulnerable

Do you have elderly or impaired neighbours? Blackouts can severely impact the more vulnerable people in the community so please check on your neighbours who might need your help and a soothing voice to let them know things are going to be OK. For those people who rely on life-saving electrical devices, you need to get in contact with emergency services if there is a life-threatening emergency. Hospitals operate on generators and can help in these situations. Elderly and disabled people can feel especially in the dark if they are not able to connect online to keep updated by Ausgrid too, so help them out with the information you can. For anyone taking medications that require refrigeration, check with your local pharmacist or doctor as to whether these medications will still be ok after being un-refrigerated for the period of the blackout.

Make the most out of it

It’s not every day we are forced into a situation of having no electrical devices, no TV, no laptops and avoiding using your mobile phone to save on battery. Take the opportunity of an outage to connect as a family, have some conversation, play board games, shadow puppet shows with torches or go outside to star gaze at a sky that isn’t diluted with street lights. Or curl up and enjoy the silence with a good book. Most of all, don’t panic.