80s blackout phone speeds up region's power outage

Director of Rex Silver Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd Thelma Silver and the 1983 analogue telephone used to call Ergon Energy during the region's power outage.
Director of Rex Silver Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd Thelma Silver and the 1983 analogue telephone used to call Ergon Energy during the region's power outage. Sarah Steger

A PIECE of old technology came into use today as Gladstone was plunged into darkness.

A sudden power outage had more than 700 buildings and residences left in the dark this morning.

Among the affected buildings was Rex Silver Insurance Brokers on Auckland St in Gladstone, where the occupants heard a loud bang and an eerie silence swept through the city.

It is believed a bird flying into power lines caused the outage.

"The cause of the power outage was just a stone's throw away from here," Thelma Silver, Director of Rex Silver Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd, said.

"That poor little bird ... to have caused all that," she said.

In the midst of the chaos, the 72-year-old Thelma was one of the few in Gladstone able to get answers.

While others scrambled on their mobile phones to call Ergon Energy, Thelma got through using an old analogue desk phone, often called a "blackout" phone, to contact the energy company.

"Everyone was using their mobile phones but no one could actually get through," she said.

Thelma contacted Ergon Energy with the company's old analogue-run blackout phone shortly after the outage.

"It's got an old headset and has one of those round dials ... it's from when we moved into this building in 1983," Thelma said.

"Apparently everyone [calling Ergon Energy] was getting an automated message that said the power would be restored by about 1pm.

"[But] I couldn't follow the prompts because I can't press any buttons with this phone, so I got connected so someone almost straight away.

"I told them what had happened and from where the bang came from ... it was very close by ... and so they were able to locate the problem much faster."

While it is uncommon for people to still own analogue phones, insurance brokers are often required to have them so they can get through to insurance companies during major situations such as natural disasters.

"This blackout phone kicks in the minute there's an outage," Thelma said.

Topics:  analogue phone blackout blackout phone ergon energy power outage

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