A BATHURST woman has slammed Essential Energy for its lack of communication after a power outage could have ended in disaster for her family.
Jodie Carter, who resides around 50km from Bathurst at Turondale, was one of a number of residents left without power on Thursday night after a storm moved through the region.
The storm cell felt as if it was right over her home and by around 5pm the power had gone out.
Essential Energy were called to respond to the power outage, but for Ms Carter, it wasn’t until 18 hours later that the power was restored.
“I’ve lost a whole fridge and freezer full of food. I haven’t been able to feed the kids anything other than Vegemite sandwiches,” she said.
What made the situation worse, though, was the special needs of an adult man who Ms Carter cares for.
He requires a CPAP machine for his sleep apnea, which is so severe that he has had near-death experiences before.
“We’ve been up all night. And he can’t go to sleep at all because he could die,” Ms Carter said.
After an evening without power, Ms Carter was still calling Essential Energy at 3am on Friday to try to get information.
She said she was told that crews were being sent home because of how long they had worked and a second crew would be back at 7am.
Essential Energy later told the Western Advocate that it has “a stringent fatigue management policy”, meaning crews can’t work more than 16 continuous hours.
Ms Carter said that it wasn’t until about an hour after the power came back on that she received a call from Essential Energy with an automated message saying the power had been restored.
“If they had have communicated with us then I wouldn’t be as cranky as I am now,” she said of the incident. “They should have been notifying priority customers that it was going to be a longer outage – 18 hours is totally unacceptable.”
In a statement to the Western Advocate, Essential Energy’s regional manager for Northern, Mark Summers, said that crews were working to restore power to more than 6500 homes and businesses in NSW on Thursday and Friday.
The Central West was one of the worst hit areas, he said, with a large number of separate faults affecting more than 1200 homes and businesses in the wider Bathurst area alone, including 213 customers in Turondale and the surrounding area.
“Bathurst-based crews responded quickly to work on restoring power supply in the Turondale area, but after commencing work they were redirected to attend a priority safety risk when a powerline fell on the Great Western Highway, posing significant risk to the public,” he explained.
Regarding communication, Mr Summers said Essential Energy “endeavours to provide customers with accurate estimated restoration times”, but this information is often unknown until crews identify the fault and even then restoration times could still change.
Customers are able to receive updates on unplanned power outage by contacting Essential Energy on 13 20 80 or visiting its website.
A dedicated 1800 number is also provided to customers with a registered medical condition requiring electrical equipment to contact Essential Energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week and these calls are prioritised.
“Essential Energy recommends that customers requiring a continuous supply of power for medical reasons discuss an action plan with their doctor or medical service provider to help them deal with any planned or unplanned interruption to their power supply,” Mr Summers said.
“Where possible, Essential Energy will also proactively contact these customers after their initial contact to keep them updated if required.”