What to do in case of a power outage

Blackout Q&A

What is meant by a blackout?

A blackout is a prolonged, large-scale power outage. Exactly what constitutes a blackout is not clearly defined quantitatively in terms of time and space.

They can be caused by technical faults, extreme weather, human error but also terrorist attacks and sabotage. The larger the affected area, the more difficult and tedious it will be to restore power.

Is Österreichs E-Wirtschaft prepared for a possible blackout?

Companies in the Austrian energy industry regularly check the safety of their plants and practice crisis scenarios. Therefore every company has crisis and emergency plans, emergency organisations and specially trained crisis staff.

What effects can a blackout have?

The effects and duration of a blackout can vary considerably and depend on many factors, such as the situation in the European power grid, the season and the nature of the disruption.

  • During a blackout, only facilities with an emergency generator and sufficient fuel supply can continue to operate. But even in these emergency-powered facilities, such as hospitals, there may be supply bottlenecks when stocks are used up, no replenishment can be delivered and emergency generators cannot be refilled.
  • Petrol stations without emergency generators are immediately shut down. Technical information and communication networks are gradually phased out (mobile phones after about 30 minutes, landlines after five to eight hours, internet after eight hours at the latest). In a blackout lasting days, a lack of fuel supply can exacerbate the situation as mobile or emergency powered communication equipment also fails over time.
  • The water supply, except in areas with sufficient self-pressure, is severely affected. Sewage pumps almost everywhere are driven by electric, which can lead to sewage disposal problems.
  • Due to the failure of traffic control systems, public and private transport in the urban area quickly come to a standstill. Public transport that runs on electricity is immediately cancelled.
  • People need to be rescued from stuck lifts. In a blackout in winter, if necessary, many people would have to be evacuated from ski lifts and gondolas.
  • Factory farming or glasshouses would be massively affected – with long-term consequences.
  • With supply chains disrupted, it would take 24 hours to restore the supply of everyday goods, including food, to normal again, even if power was restored.
What can individuals do?

The prolonged power failure phase can be dealt with relatively easily with little preparation; excluding personal limitations, of course. To manage the crisis it is important to prepare for the situation and stockpile durable goods. Checklists help prepare for a blackout situation and are useful when making decisions in the event of an emergency, which provides a little security.

Could Austria separate itself from the European electricity system and close its borders to foreign electricity?

Austria is part of the European pipeline network and benefits from the grid security and the mutual g assistance of the neighbours. A short-term separation is not physically feasible. Even in the long term, Austria would have to build considerably more power plants of its own in order to be able to maintain the continuity of supply alone.

What does a blackout mean for district heating, water supply, telephone and internet?

All modern infrastructure services require a stable power supply. From heating control systems to supermarket tills. As a result, water, gas and district heating may experience supply disruptions in the event of a prolonged, large-scale power outage.

During a blackout, only facilities with an emergency generator (and sufficient fuel supply) can continue to operate. Petrol stations (without emergency power supply) will cease to operate immediately, technical information and communication networks cease to operate gradually. (mobile phones after about 30 minutes, landlines after about five to eight hours, internet after eight hours at the latest). During blackouts that last for days, the lack of fuel replenishment can exacerbate the situation, as mobile or emergency-powered communication equipment fails over time.

The water supply, except in areas with sufficient self-pressure, is severely affected. Electricity is needed for sewage disposal everywhere too.