How to Prepare for an Outage

Most power outages will be over almost as soon as they begin, but some can last much longer. Power outages are often caused by freezing rain, high winds, and fallen trees 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. If you only have a cordless phone, you will also be left without phone service. If you do not have a battery-powered or crank radio, you may have no way of monitoring news broadcasts. In other words, you could be facing major challenges.

You can greatly lessen the impact of a power outage by taking the time to prepare in advance. You and your family should be prepared to cope on your own during a power outage for at least 72 hours.

Preparing Your Home

  1. You can install a non-electric standby stove or heater. Choose heating units that are not dependent on an electric motor, electric fan, or some other electric device 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.
  2. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned every fall in preparation for use and to eliminate creosote build-up which could ignite and cause a chimney fire.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. If you do not have a cell phone (cell towers typically have back up generation) and have a land line, purchase a corded phone. It should still work in a power outage unless the communications line was also damaged.

Refrigerated Food Safety

Refrigerated food must be kept at temperatures of 40 degrees to avoid spoiling. Do not taste food to figure out if it’s safe to eat.
  1. A closed refrigerator will keep food safe for about four hours.
  2. A closed freezer will maintain food quality for about 48 hours if full, 24 hours if half full.
  3. A full (not over packed) refrigerator or freezer will maintain its temperature better. If you consistently have a half-empty appliance, consider adding closed containers of water. These must already be chilled to have any positive effect so do not add containers during an outage.
  4. Some experts advise to pack dry ice in your freezer, though the ability to source it is limited in Niagara.
If your power outage lasts longer than four to eight hours, discard the following items:
  1. Eggs
  2. Mayonnaise
  3. Leftovers
  4. Milk products (except butter)
  5. Fresh meats, poultry and seafood
  6. Soft cheeses, low-fat cheese and shredded cheese
  7. Creamy-based dressings, gravy and spaghetti sauce

After an extended power outage, discard all previously frozen products except breads, nuts, hard cheeses, fruit juices.

People with Disabilities or Requiring Assistance

Consider how you may be affected in a power outage, including:

  1. Your evacuation route – without elevator service (if applicable).
  2. Planning for a backup power supply for essential medical equipment.
  3. Keeping a flashlight and a cell phone handy to signal for help.
  4. Establishing a self-help network to assist and check on you during an emergency.
  5. Enrolling in a medical alert program that will signal for help if you are immobilized.
  6. Keeping a list of facilities that provide life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
  7. Keeping a list of medical conditions and treatment.
  8. 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.

Emergency Procedures During Power Outages

If you have more than one phone line coming into your home, consider switching service to two separate telephone companies. Often, both services won’t stop working simultaneously.

If your home is flooded, on fire, squashed by a tree or any other type of emergency happens, immediately call the fire department. Program the number for your local police department into your cell phone because 911 might not ring at an emergency source from a cell.
Tape the following phone numbers to the bottom of your land-line telephone or inside a telephone book:
  1. Fire department
  2. Telephone company(ies)
  3. Utility companies
  4.  Police department

Sources: about.com and http://www.getprepared.gc.ca