How to respond to extreme summer weather (January 2020)

Managing energy costs and keeping cool during summer can be challenging for Victorians. We all need to be ready to respond to extreme weather, to look after ourselves and the people around us, and learn how to manage our use of energy and water, especially during hot weather conditions.

Here's our guide to responding to extreme summer weather.

Coping without electricity, gas or water

During a blackout or an interruption in supply of gas or water, there are some simple steps you can take to help you and your family cope:

Electricity outages

  • Call your electricity company or check social media for an update on the outage, why it's happening and how long it may last.
  • Switch off and unplug all electrical appliances, especially any with heating elements like kettles and any computers that could be damaged during an electricity surge.
  • Close doors, windows and blinds to keep out the heat.
  • Keep one light switched on so that you'll see when the power is back on.
  • Keep your fridge and freezer doors shut to keep your food cold and eat hot food within four hours or throw it away.
  • Use a torch for light - they're much safer to use than candles.
  • If you have to use candles, keep them away from children and any flammable objects, and blow them out before going to bed.
  • Check on any vulnerable neighbours, including the elderly, or call your neighbour if you need assistance.

Gas outages

  • Call your gas company or check social media for an update on the outage, why it's happening and how long it may last.
  • If you usually use gas for cooking, cook food in a microwave or another electrical appliance.
  • Cook outside on a barbecue that uses gas from a bottle but don't bring any outdoor cooking appliances inside to use - they can be dangerous in unventilated areas.
  • Use food that doesn't need to be cooked, such as salads, breads and tinned food.
  • If you need to heat water, use a kettle, microwave or electric hotplates.

Water outages

  • Call your water company or check social media for an update on the outage, why it's happening, how long it may last and where you can access emergency drinking water.
  • Turn off all taps so that there is no flooding when the water supply returns to normal.
  • Use water sparingly from your emergency water supply.
  • Ensure that children and pets have enough drinking water for the duration of the outage.
  • Use anti-bacterial hand sanitiser in place of water when possible.
  • Don't try to use your washing machine, dishwasher or hot water system, as it can draw sediment into the appliance and damage it.
  • Remove any wet washing from your washing machine and hang it up to dry.
  • When the water is back on, run an outside tap for a few minutes to flush any sediment from your supply.

Bushfires

During extreme heat days, check the Vic Emergency website and download the app to find out if your area is under bushfire threat and how to respond.

During bushfires

  • If you need assistance, call 000. Residents should follow their bushfire plan. Remember: leaving early is the safest way to protect your life and the lives of your family.
  • VicEmergency provides emergency warnings and information. Call 1800 226 226.
  • Check the air quality on EPA AirWatch. If the air quality is not good and you don't need to leave, stay indoors and avoid exercise, close all windows and doors and switch air conditioners to "recycle" or "recirculate". Use a P2 or N95 filter mask if you have to go outside.

Support after the fire

Electricity and gas

  • Damaged electrical wires, gas line leaks and LPG gas cylinders can all be hazardous after a bushfire. Take precautions to protect yourself and your family, and do not approach electricity or gas hazards.
  • Contact your electricity or gas company to report faults.

Water

  • Water sources can become contaminated from debris, ash or dead animals. Water tanks and water from creeks could be contaminated. Water from deep bores may be safe but if you suspect contamination, use another water supply for drinking and food preparation.
  • Emergency water assistance for bushfire areas is typically listed on the VicEmergency website.

Community support

  • Access to bushfire areas may be limited due to danger and homes may be without electricity, gas or water while repairs are taking place.
  • VicEmergency has a list of assistance programs and recovery centres for bushfire-affected communities.

Water shortage and quality

Water supply can be interrupted or the quality can be lower during extreme weather. Regional areas are facing hotter and drier conditions, and that can put pressure on the water supply. It's important we all limit our water use during the year to ensure water is available when we need it.

Read our Getting summer ready guide for tips on how to prepare for extreme heat before it strikes, including what to put in your emergency outage kit and how much water and non-perishable food to store.

We can help you if you have a complaint about your energy or water company. Visit How to make a complaint for more information.

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