Lessen the impact of a power outage by taking the time to prepare in advance. Prepare your family and yourself to cope on your own during a power outage for at least 72 hours.
Planning before a power outage
- You can install a non-electric standby stove or heater. The heating units should not be dependent on electricity to function. It is important to adequately vent the stove or heater with the type of chimney flue specified for it. Never connect two heating units to the same chimney flue at the same time.
- If you have a wood-burning appliance, have the chimney cleaned every fall in preparation for use and to eliminate creosote build-up which could ignite and cause a chimney fire.
- If the standby heating unit will use the normal house oil or gas supply, have it connected with shut-off valves by a certified tradesperson.
- Before considering the use of an emergency generator during a power outage, check with furnace, appliance and lighting fixture dealers or manufacturers regarding power requirements and proper operating procedures.
- Protect sensitive electrical appliances such as TVs, computer, and DVD players with a surge-protecting powerbar.
- Have flashlights, a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, and extra batteries on hand.
- Have some form of phone that does not require electricity, either a standard telephone or a cellular phone, rather than a cordless telephone.
- Set aside extra water and buy or make extra ice. If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, keep plastic containers filled with water, leaving about an inch of space in each one. The chilled or frozen water will help keep food cool during power outages.
- Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full.
Consider how you and your family may be affected in a power outage including;
- Your evacuation route – without elevator service (if applicable).
- Planning for a backup power supply for essential medical equipment.
- Establishing a self-help network to assist and check on you during an emergency.
- Enrolling in a medical alert program that will signal for help if you are immobilized.
- Keeping a list of medical conditions and treatment.
- If you live in an apartment, advise the property management that you may need assistance staying in your apartment or that you must be evacuated if there is a power outage. This will allow the property manager to plan and make the necessary arrangements on your behalf.
- If you have any specific needs or disabilities that require electrical equipment, make plans for dealing with a power outage.
- Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. If it is hard-wired to the house’s electrical supply, ensure it has a battery-powered back-up.
During a power outage
- First, check whether the power outage is limited to your home. If your neighbours’ power is still on, check your own circuit breaker panel or fuse box. If the problem is not a breaker or a fuse, check the service wires leading to the house. If they are obviously damaged or on the ground, stay at least 10 meters back and notify your electric supply authority. Keep the number along with other emergency numbers near your telephone.
- If your neighbours’ power is also out, notify your electric supply authority.
- Turn off all tools, appliances and electronic equipment, and turn the thermostat(s) for the home heating system down to minimum to prevent damage from a power surge when power is restored. Also, power can be restored more easily when there is not a heavy load on the electrical system.
- Turn off all lights, except one inside and one outside, so that both you and hydro crews outside know that power has been restored.
- Don’t open your freezer or fridge unless it is absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if the door remains closed.
- Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or home generators indoors or in garages. They give off carbon monoxide. Because you can’t smell or see it, carbon monoxide can cause health problems and is life-threatening.
- Never use candles for emergency lighting, use flashlights.
- Listen to your battery-powered or wind-up radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities.
- Use the telephone only for emergencies, listen to the radio for updates.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel.
- If it is hot outside, take steps to remain cool. If it is cold, take steps to remain warm. Use of home generators
Home generators are handy for backup electricity in case of an outage, but must only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines. A back-up generator may only be connected to your home’s electrical system through an approved transfer panel and switch that has been installed by a qualified electrician. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet as serious injury can result when the current produced by the home generator is fed back into the electrical lines, and transformed to a higher voltage. This can endanger the lives of utility employees working to restore the power.
To operate a generator safely:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Ensure that the generator operates outdoors in well-ventilated conditions, well away from doors or windows, and never in your garage, to prevent exhaust gases from entering the house.
- Connect lights and appliances directly to the generator. If extension cords must be used, ensure they are properly rated, CSA-approved cords.
If you have to evacuate
During winter months, when temperatures drop, it can make a house inhabitable. Although a house can be damaged by low temperatures, the major threat is to the plumbing system. If a standby heating system is used, check to see that no part of the plumbing system can freeze.
If the house must be evacuated, protect it by taking the following precautions:
- Turn off the main breaker or switch of the circuit-breaker panel or power-supply box.
- Turn off the water main where it enters the house. Protect the valve, inlet pipe, and meter or pump with blankets or insulation material.
- Drain the water from your plumbing system. Starting at the top of the house, open all taps, and flush toilets several times. Go to the basement and open the drain valve. Drain your hot water tank by attaching a hose to the tank drain valve and running it to the basement floor drain.
- Note: If you drain a gas-fired water tank, the pilot light should be turned out – call the local gas supplier to re-light it.
- Unhook washing machine hoses and drain.
- Do not worry about small amounts of water trapped in horizontal pipes. Add a small amount of glycol or antifreeze to water left in the toilet bowl, and the sink and bathtub traps.
- If your house is protected from groundwater by a sump pump, clear valuables from the basement floor in case of flooding
After the power outage
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Sort through your food if there is an extended outage. Do not refreeze any dairy products, seafood, or food that has thawed completely and been above 4ºC for more than two hours, or anything with a questionable texture or smell. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Do not enter a flooded basement unless you are sure the power is disconnected.
- Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse-breaker panels until they have been checked and cleaned by a qualified electrician.
- Replace the furnace flue (if removed) and turn off the fuel to the standby heating unit.
- Switch on the main electric switch (before, check to ensure appliances, electric heaters, TVs, microwaves computers, etc. were unplugged to prevent damage from a power surge).
- Give the electrical system a chance to stabilize before reconnecting tools and appliances. Turn the heating-system thermostats up first, followed in a couple of minutes by reconnection of the fridge and freezer. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting all other tools and appliances.
- Close the drain valve in the basement.
- Turn on the water supply. Close lowest valves/taps first and allow air to escape from upper taps.
- Make sure that the hot water heater is filled before turning on the power to it.
- Reset your clocks, automatic timers, and alarms.
- Restock your emergency kit so the supplies will be there when needed again.