Be Prepared for a Power Outage

Most power outages will be over almost as soon as they begin, but some can last much longer – up to days or even weeks. Power outages are often caused by freezing rain, sleet storms and/or high winds which damage power lines and equipment. Cold snaps or heat waves can also overload the electric power system.

During a power outage, you may be left without heating, air conditioning, lighting, hot water, or even running water. Everyone has a responsibility to protect their homes and to be prepared before it happens.

Before the power goes out:

  • Have emergency light sources (flashlights with extra batteries).
  • Have at least one traditional (corded) phone in your house or a fully charged back-up cell phone battery.
  • If you have an electric garage door opener, make sure there is an emergency handle in place and learn how to operate the door without power.
  • Do not open your refrigerator or freezer unless it is absolutely necessary. A refrigerator will typically keep food cold for 4-6 hours and a full freezer approximately 2 days with the doors closed.
  • Install surge protectors in your home to safeguard valuable electronic equipment such as computers and home entertainment systems.
  • Know where to find each utility shut off – electricity, water and gas. Know how to turn each utility off and make sure you have the proper tools to do so close at hand.
  • If you are on home oxygen or have any other life-sustaining equipment in your home, contact the service provider to learn the details of their emergency contingency plan in the event of a power outage.
  • Make sure you have at least one vehicle with no less than half a tank of fuel.

During a power outage:

  • Check to see if your neighbours have power. If you are the only house without electricity, check the main fuse in your electric service panel or fuse box to see if the main circuit breaker has been tripped or if a fuse has blown.
  • Turn off all major non-essential appliances such as your electric range and washer/dryer. Appliances and tools left switched on will start up automatically. Turning them off prevents injury or fire.
  • Turn off all lights but one (so you can tell when power has been restored).
  • Unplug sensitive electronic equipment. This will reduce the chance of damage due to electrical surges once power has been restored.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed to preserve the cold inside.
  • If you light candles, use candleholders and never leave burning candles unattended.

When power is restored:

  • Turn on only the most essential appliance first to give the electrical system a chance to stabilize. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting other appliances.
  • Check your fridge and freezer to ensure they are back on. Follow Health Unit Guidelines to determine if food may be at risk of spoilage (as some many not be visibly spoiled).
  • Don’t forget to reset your clocks, timers and alarms.
  • Replace any items from your Emergency Kit which you may have used so you are prepared for future emergencies.

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, 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.