Australia is prone to stormy weather, and if you’re not prepared for it, this can cause severe harm to your electrical equipment as well as physical harm to your family.
To prevent damage to your home and contents in the event of a storm, be sure to take some measures to keep yourself protected.
PRE-STORM PREPARATION CHECKLIST
There are a number of things that you and your family can do before the storm even hits to prepare the house and its electrical appliances for wild weather. Run through the below points and make sure that you’re able to confidently state that you’ve checked them to maximise your preparedness for a violent storm:
Lightning proof the home
Ask your electrician if your home’s switchboard has surge protection installed. If it doesn’t, invest in the money to get it done. Surge protection is effective, and whatever you spend on it can save you a fortune in busted electronics as a result of being unprotected in a storm.
Prepare an emergency kit
If the weather is wild enough, you might need everything from water and food through to first aid supplies. Prepare a kit that can get you through a night with no utilities and power, and make sure it’s in an easy-to-reach location.
If you know a storm is on the way, then unplug any non-essential appliances completely from the power source. Additionally, if you can, unplug outside TV and radio aerials.
Talk to the family
Develop a clear strategy with the family that outlines how to respond to a storm, and practice these plans so that everyone is response-ready when the storm hits.
Check the trees
If there are trees that are too close to overhead power lines, then call the local electric utility to trim the branches away, as these are a hazard in the event of a storm.
Consider a portable generator
If you’re in an area that regularly encounters severe storms, then it may be worth investing in a portable generator in order to maintain safety and comfort levels through a storm. Just be aware how to safely operate one!
WHEN THE STORM HITS
So now you know how to prepare before the storm strikes. But what about when it hits? Make sure that your family is familiar with the below “storm rules” in order to minimise risk to both yourselves and your home.
Don’t connect during the storm
Avoid turning on any appliances through the storm, including kitchen appliances such as stoves or heaters. Keep mobile phones on and avoid fixed telephones, as these can deliver electric shocks.
Switch on the local radio
If you’ve got a battery powered radio then keep listening for official warnings and emergency services advice. If you haven’t got a radio, then download an app like TuneIn for your iPhone or Android device and stream the local station’s broadcast over it instead – just watch the data use because you should have turned your broadband modem off.
Especially in winter, the cold weather and dampness coupled with the lack of electrical power can be both uncomfortable and a health hazard. Rug up or consider using a portable heater that has a certification mark for severe weather.
Watch the water levels
If there is flooding and the water reaches a level above electrical outlets or power cords that are still connected to electrical outlets, immediately contact your electric utility provider to cut the power.
AFTER THE EVENT
Even after the storm has passed, any damage that it has caused could continue to be a threat. With that in mind, there is one final checklist that you need to run through with your family:
Clear debris, but only after the power has been cut
Live power lines are the single biggest threat following a storm, and while you need to clear away the debris (because it is also a danger), wait until the power is disconnected and the power lines are repaired
Look for flood damage
While remaining a safe distance from wires (at least 10 metres), inspect them for any potential damage. Do not attempt to repair them yourself, but instead contact a licensed electrical contractor to make repairs. Do not use any electrical appliances that you think might have been affected by water. Hire a qualified professional to check for you.
Continue to use your phone radio station or a battery-operated radio to keep up to date with official warnings and advice. If there was extensive damage to the area it could be days before it will be safe to turn the power back on.
People often believe that the power utility company is responsible for the wiring in the house, but in fact, the utility company is only responsible for wiring up to the connection to the house. If there’s been any damage past that point (the mast/pipe and the wires within it, for example), then you’re the responsible party and you should immediately arrange repairs with an electrician.
Get a certificate of inspection
If your electricity was disconnected during the flood, your power company will need a certificate of test that clears the premises to have power reconnected. This test acts as a guarantee that the premises has been tested and is certified to be safe.
For the most part, staying safe during a severe storm is a matter of common sense, but it helps to remind yourself of these safety tips on a regular basis. That way, if a storm hits, you’re able to remain calm through what could otherwise be a very chaotic time.