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Civil Defence & Emergency
~ Ngā Whakahaere Whawhati Tata

civil defence

Electricity Failure

An electricity blackout could develop into an emergency event in Hawkes Bay. An infrastructure power failure may result from natural or technological hazards, or from equipment failure.

A prolonged loss of electricity can have significant consequences, especially in urban areas, causing social disruption and economic loss.

Previous Events In Hawke's Bay

As technological developments continue apace, Hawke's Bay - as elsewhere - has become increasingly dependent on the supply of power. People often find it difficult to manage when storms or accidents lead to power cuts.

  • In September 2000, Hawke's Bay biggest storm-driven blackout in almost 40 years triggered commercial and domestic chaos and cost the region's industries hundreds of thousands of dollars. The region blacked out twice when both the 110kv transmission line from Tuai and the 220kv link with Wairakei failed at the height of the storm. The first total blackout lasted about an hour and occurred in the middle of the night, but the more damaging blackout began in the early hours of Tuesday 26 September and lasted up to 5 hours in some areas. It was the first time in 22 years that the area's three electricity supply points - the Redcliffe, Whakatu and Fernhill sub-stations - were all out at the same time.
  • On 15/16 August 2001, gale-force winds and rain struck Hawke's Bay. Winds gusting to 90km/h led to power cuts from Dannevirke to Wairoa and closed the Napier-Taihape Road. The winds and electrical storm caused line faults and blew fuses that blacked out hundreds of homes in Napier and Hastings, particularly in Pirimai and in the area from Windsor Park in Hastings to Havelock North. In the Wairoa district, Morere and Taui were affected by blackouts. Snowfalls were widespread.

Future Events

The Hawke's Bay Engineering Lifeline Group is a volunteer collective that aims to reduce risks and improve service reinstatement after a disaster. The group's investigations - reported in 'Facing the Risk', published in November 2001 - assessed the risks and potential effects to the Hawke's Bay community, including the risk of electricity supply failure.

A key finding of the group's study was that the supply of electricity to Hawke's Bay is limited by the capacity of the single line from Wairakei to Whirinaki. This line crosses two major fault lines. If this supply link were lost, other sources would not be able to maintain the full supply of electricity needed to keep all of Hawke's Bay's homes and businesses functioning.

There is a real threat that following a major earthquake, power could be lost to the region for at least several days.

If Hawke's Bay had prolonged power losses the following could occur:

  • Severe disruption to services and businesses in the affected areas
  • Short-term economic losses to industries and businesses operating in the affected area, in particular to the retail, hospitality industries, and industrial sectors
  • Long-term economic losses for many industries and businesses in the affected area

The 1998 Mercury Power Crisis in Auckland forced 54% of businesses to vacate their premises, affecting 70,000 workers and 7500 residents. Some 400 businesses lost power.

Each utility company in Hawke's Bay undertakes comprehensive asset management planning to reduce the likelihood that it would no longer be able to provide services in an emergency event. The utilities also carry out recovery planning to minimise the time taken to restore their services in a crisis.

An electricity failure affecting Hawke's Bay could occur on either Transpower's transmission grid or on the local electricity lines company's equipment. The company whose equipment causes the loss of power would be the lead agency responsible for coordinating restoration of supply. Civil Defence Emergency Management would have a role if special powers were required to restore services or to manage any social disruption issues.

What Can You Do?

  • Report electricity faults or outages to your power company.
  • Ensure you have at least one phone in your home and business that is not cordless or reliant on electricity to work.
  • Ensure your business is prepared. Ensure you have UPS (battery back-up) to allow you to close down IT systems in a controlled manner and to keep your telephone system operating as long as possible. The more dependent your business is on electricity, the more important it is for you to investigate and install emergency back-up options such as diesel-powered generators.
  • Make sure you have emergency supplies in your home, including:
    • torch with spare batteries
    • radio with spare batteries (check all batteries every 3 months)
    • first aid kit and prescription medicines
    • food and water for at least three days (water should not be kept in plastic milk containers)
    • a gas or wood-burning barbeque to cook food and heat water
    • a change of clothes for all family members (wind and waterproof clothing, sun hats and strong outdoor shoes).
    • a quantity of cash, notes and coins for manual purchases

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