How do we shut off power in an electrical emergency?
Electricity is something all of us use every single day. It is the cornerstone of modern life.
However, this reliance might be why we don't think about how dangerous it can be if something goes wrong.
Think about it, do you know the signs of an electrical emergency? Would you be able to identify them quickly?
And more importantly do you know how and when to shut off your power in the event of an emergency to protect yourself?
Let’s start by answering the first question -
SIGNS OF AN ELECTRICAL EMERGENCY
There are many different things that can indicate an electrical emergency. Some of these are obvious and some are not so obvious.
Some obvious signs:
- Fallen power lines
- Power outages
Not so obvious signs of a potential electrical emergency:
- Flickering lights
- Sparking from power outlets or switches
- Strange odours coming from power points or switches
- Scorch marks around power outlets
- Switch plates or power points that are hot to the touch
- Crackling or buzzing sounds coming from any power outlets or switches
- Frequent power trips in your property
- Water leaking through any light or electrical fixture
WHAT TO DO IN AN ELECTRICAL EMERGENCY
There are different responses that should be taken for different types of electrical emergencies.
WHAT TO DO IF THERE ARE FALLEN POWER LINES NEAR YOUR PROPERTY
Always keep far away from fallen power lines, at least 8 - 10 metres to ensure safety.
You should always treat fallen power lines as though they are live (still conducting electricity), even if they are broken.
Standing near fallen power lines can put you at risk of serious electric shocks that can cause injury and in some cases even be fatal.
Therefore, to reduce the risk of harmful electric shock, never go near a fallen power line or anything they might be touching such as vehicles, metal fences or pools of water.
When you see fallen power lines it is important to call your electricity supply company and the police to report the location so they can be made safe and repaired.
If you see a power line down here’s who to call:
Electricity supply companies:
Find your suburbs electricity provider HERE
- Urgent no: 000
- Non-urgent no: 131 444
WHOLE PROPERTY POWER OUTAGE
The first thing to do if there is a power outage in your property is to check your energy company's website/app (check live information for your suburb HERE).
There you can see if the outage is due to a problem in the grid that is affecting energy supply on the whole or if the power outage is only affecting your property.
You can also call your energy company to check if there is a power outage in your area or to report a power outage (see the numbers in the previous section of the article).
Please Note: In the event of a power failure, turn off and unplug all electrical appliances at the powerpoint. This will help to prevent equipment damage in the event of a power surge.
Storms are the most common cause of widespread power outages as strong winds often cause trees to fall across power lines, interrupting supply.
In some cases, the interruption of power to your property will be fixed as soon as the power company has dealt with any issues in the grid or with power lines.
However, if the issue that resulted in the electricity outage caused damage to your electrical system you may notice that your power does not return to normal when the energy supplier says the issue is fixed.
In this case you will need to call a licensed electrician immediately to locate the issue in your electrical system and fix it for you.
ELECTRICAL FAULT IN YOUR PROPERTY
If the power outage is only occurring in your property there are a couple of things that it might be attributed to.
For example, you may have noticed some specific issues that may be causing the power outage, such as water dripping from a light fixture, in which case you will need to stop using all items powered by that electrical circuit and book a qualified electrician ASAP to fix the issue.
If there is nothing obvious causing the issue you will need to go to your switchboard and check to see if your safety switch has flicked off.
If it has, you can use the steps outlined in our previous blog ‘Things to do when your safety switch starts randomly tripping’ [link to blog] to see if you can remedy the issue.
If the issue persists, the best line of action is to turn off the main switch in your switchboard to prevent any further damage or hazards caused by a damaged or unreliable electrical supply.
However, if you notice any sparks, heat or humming/buzzing coming directly from your switchboard do not touch anything on it including the main switch.
You will then need to call a qualified emergency electrician to come to your property, find the root cause of the electrical issue and fix it.
DO NOT in any circumstance, try to fix an electrical fault yourself. Electrical DIY is illegal in Victoria. This is because if you do not have the correct training and equipment to deal with an electrical issue it can be incredibly hazardous and even fatal to attempt to fix it.
HOW TO DISCONNECT THE POWER IN YOUR PROPERTY
It is important to know how to shut off the power to your property in the event of potential electrical hazards.
To disconnect power in your property first you will need to locate the main electrical panel/switchboard. Then you will need to flip the main switch and all the circuit breakers and safety switches to the OFF position.
It is important to check that all of the power in your property is off (by checking switches and power outlets) as in some houses certain circuits may not be protected by circuit breakers meaning you are unable to stop power to your property.
BEWARE: If your switchboard is producing sparks/arching, emanating heat or humming/buzzing do not touch anything on it and call an emergency electrician immediately.
If you have an older fuse box in your home you’ll need to pull the main disconnect or pull out the fuse block to shut off the power to the house. Unscrew (counterclockwise) individual fuses to shut off individual circuits.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have one of these older fuse boxes it is imperative you get it updated so you have access to the modern apparatuses that keep electricity safe.
WHEN IN DOUBT, CALL A PROFESSIONAL
If you are experiencing what you think may be an electrical emergency in your property and you don’t know what to do, pick up the phone and call a qualified electrician immediately.
They will be able to walk you through any steps you may be able to take to make your electrical system safe for the time being before they can reach your property.
Here at 181 electrical we take electrical emergencies very seriously and always put the safety of our clients and the protection of their property first.