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Lifeline Utility Failures

Lifeline utility failures

Lifeline utilities are organisations and companies that provide essential utility services to your home and community. These are typically categorised as:

  • Energy: electricity, natural gas and petroleum products
  • Water: drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater
  • Telecommunications: landline, mobile phone and internet
  • Transport: local roads and State highways, airports, ports, and railways.

Lifeline utilities are mainly provided and managed by commercial organisations; a few are managed by Council or the Government.

The risk of lifeline utility disruptions can be significant. They can cause severe disruption to households and businesses and may result in evacuations, business closures, economic loss and clean-up costs, in addition to potential health hazards and environmental impacts, depending on the nature of disruption. Secondary hazards could include fire.

The failure of a lifeline utility can be local or may originate from outside the region. It can be a result of natural or technological hazards, human error, equipment failure, or other damage. Each individual utility company undertakes comprehensive asset management planning to reduce the possibility of failure and ensure that services are re-established as soon as possible if failure does occur. 



What do I need to do to be ready?

No electricity or gas

What would you do if the power or gas was out for days? How will you see, cook, and keep warm?



  • Power cuts could affect EFTPOS and ATM machines, so make sure you have some cash at home, or enough supplies to see you through three days or more.
  • Make sure you have torches and batteries, either in your emergency bag or somewhere everyone can find them in the dark.
  • Have a solar or battery powered radio so you can keep up with the latest news and alerts. Know which radio stations to tune in to for information during an emergency.
  • Have a stock of food that doesn’t need to be cooked (canned is good) or something to cook your food on (BBQ, camp stove). Don’t forget food for babies and pets.
  • Talk to your neighbours about what they’ll do if the power is out, you might find they have a gas BBQ and you have enough food to share (or the other way round).



  • Treat all electricity as live and never touch exposed electrical equipment.
  • Contact your utilities provider, inform them of any faults and find out the estimated restoration times.
  • If the power goes out, eat the food from your fridge first, then your freezer, before you eat the food in the cupboard or your emergency supplies.



  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and stay out of damaged areas.
  • Don’t overload phone lines with non-emergency calls, only use the phone for short essential calls to keep the lines clear for emergency calls.
  • Stay away from affected sites until they have been properly inspected and authorities give the all-clear.
    Look for and report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities and suppliers.


No water

Imagine having no water for three days or more. How would you wash, cook, and clean? What would you drink?



  • Store enough drinking water for three days or more (three litres per person per day), change the water supply every 12 months.
  • Keep your empty bottles, give them a good clean and fill them with water, don’t forget to store water for babies and pets too.
  • Remember to store water for cooking and cleaning as well, you can use the water in your hot water cylinder but store some extra in large plastic containers.


No Phone or Internet

Talk to your family about how you will get in touch and where you will meet up in an emergency if the phone lines and/or internet are down. 



  • If you have kids, make sure you know the school/day care’s emergency plans and give the school names of three people who could pick the kids up if you can’t get there.
  • Have a solar or battery powered radio so you can keep up with the latest news and alerts. Know which radio stations to tune in to for information during an emergency.
  • Have an out of town contact that everyone knows about (sometimes when local phone lines are down you can still reach people outside your area). Get everyone to check in with your out of town contact by text or online messaging in an emergency if you can.


No transport

Auckland is home to New Zealand's largest international airport and has many roads and motorways. It is also a maritime hub, with international ports, ferries and marinas. If you can't take your normal route home, how will you get there? Who will you go with? Where will you meet up if your street is a no-go zone?



  • Agree on a meeting place if you can’t get home, it might be the school, a friend’s place, or with family.
  • If you work away from home, find workmates who live in your area, in an emergency you could travel together.
  • Have a getaway bag at work or in your car, with walking shoes, warm clothes, some snack food and a bottle of water, a torch, batteries and radio are useful too.
  • Give the school or day-care a list of three people who can pick the kids up if you can’t get there.

How ready are you?