Power Loss or Winter Storms

Most Canadians rely on electrical power. Fallen trees, high winds, freezing rain, even automobile accidents may damage power lines and cause power outages that may last from several hours to a few days. An extended loss of power during the winter months can result in cold, damp homes and challenging living conditions.

Preparing for Power Failure

Homeowners can protect their homes against frost damage by installing standby heating systems that permit continued occupancy throughout a winter storm emergency. The consequences of power loss can be minimized by taking the following necessary precautions:

  • Homeowners with fireplaces should maintain an accessible supply of fuel.
  • Install a nonelectrical standby stove or heater (approved by the Canadian Standards Association or certified by the Canadian Gas Association).
  • Keep flashlights, lanterns, matches and candles stored in an accessible location for adults and inaccessible to children.
  • Check with your local electrical supply authority before arranging the installation of an emergency generator for furnaces, appliances or lighting.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio and spare batteries available for emergency announcements.
  • If you go outside during a winter storm, dress appropriately (several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing).
  • Conserve fuel if necessary by keeping your home cooler than normal.
  • Avoid travel if possible. If you must travel, do so during the day.

Responding to Power Failure

What to do when your electrical power fails:

  • Check to see if it is only your home affected; if so, contact your local electrical supply authority Electrical Emergency.
  • Turn on your battery-powered radio for information updates.
  • Stay calm-even in frigid temperatures a home with doors and windows shut will not become too cold for a few hours.
  • If you have a backup heating source, turn it on.

Leaving Your Home

When your home must be abandoned:

  • Turn off the main electrical switch.
  • Turn off the water main where it enters your home.
  • Protect the valve, inlet pipe and meter or pump with blankets or insulation material.
  • Drain the water from you system beginning at the top of the house-open all taps and flush toilets several times (small amounts of water trapped in horizontal pipes will not cause damage).
  • Add glycol or antifreeze to water remaining in toilets so that it does not damage your pipe system.
  • Open the drain valve usually located in the basement.
  • Drain your hot water tank by attaching a hose to the tank drain valve and running to a floor drain or sink.

Regaining Power

When power resumes:

  • Turn your power switch back on if your home was abandoned.
  • Turn on your water supply-close lowest valves first and allow air to escape from upper level taps.
  • Fill your hot water heater with water prior to turning it back on.
  • Warm your home back up slightly warmer than normal for a few hours to allow it to thoroughly dry.
  • Inspect your food supplies in refrigerators, freezers and cupboards for spoilage.

After the storm:

  • Immediately report downed power lines and broken gas lines.
  • Inspect your home for any physical damage.
  • Check on neighbours, especially older adults and those with special needs.
  • Beware of overexertion and exhaustion. Shovelling snow in extreme cold can cause heart attack- pace yourself.

This information was taken from the brochure entitled Winter Power Failure, produced by Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, in cooperation with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Hydro Québec, BC Hydro and Health Canada.