RESIDENTS in and around Muswellbrook will notice low flying helicopters this week as specialist crews begin annual aerial patrols to inspect the electricity network for any potential bushfire hazards.
Two helicopters have been contracted by Ausgrid to examine parts of the Hunter, Central Coast and Sydney.
From May 20 the helicopters will fly above Aberdeen, Denman, Hollydeen, Jerry Plains, McCullys Gap, Muscle Creek, Muswellbrook, Ravensworth and surrounding areas.
"We saw this year's bushfire danger period extended in parts of our network including the Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook and Singleton (Local Government Areas)," Ausgrid chief operating officer Trevor Armstrong said.
"So, we're undertaking these patrols in the areas of our network at greatest risk.
"Safety is our highest priority and these patrols are a key part of our annual bushfire safety program to help identify and rectify any potential defects that might pose a bushfire risk.
"This year we have contracted two specialist helicopters to allow the patrols to be finished by the end of June, well before the start of the next bushfire season in September."
The helicopter flights are the safest and most efficient way to inspect high-voltage powerlines and Ausgrid will remove or repair any hazards identified on our network during and soon after the patrols.
"The patrols reduce safety risks for our own people, because by using a helicopter, we can identify potentially dangerous hazards from above without putting our workers at risk," Mr Armstrong said.
"The specialist crews will be using laser scanning equipment and taking high-resolution photographs to identify any hazards on our poles and wires and trees growing too close to powerlines.
"Using the photographs means our own workers don't need to be placed in a position of having to examine damaged equipment up close."
Crews will be in the air from about 7.30am to 5.30pm (weather permitting) and property owners may want to consider securing livestock during the patrols.
"The helicopters fly between 15km and 35km per hour and have been modified to allow for the quietest possible operation but they may fly low at times, which can startle livestock in rural areas," Mr Armstrong said.
More information including a flight schedule is available at: ausgrid.com.au/bushfirepatrols