07 Jan Would you be prepared for a long power outage
Any power failure is annoying because it makes us realize how dependent we are on electricity. However, if it happens in the middle of winter, it’s a whole different ballgame.
In the winter, we are no longer talking about an inconvenience, but of much more serious issues that could arise if the outage lasts several hours or even days. Therefore, being prepared and knowing what to do in the event of a prolonged power outage is critical.
What causes breakdowns
Breakdowns are usually caused by sudden changes in the weather: a severe thunderstorm, high winds, snow and ice, etc. Occasionally an outage will be caused by a tree that suddenly falls or a car crash that damages a utility pole. All of this can cause an outage that can last for several hours.
To prevent a power surge
- Turn off all tools, appliances, and electronic equipment such as computers. These should also be protected with a surge-protecting power bar.
- Turn the thermostats for the home heating system down to minimum.
- Turn off all lights, except one inside and one outside so that you know that power has been restored.
To ensure your safety and comfort
- Get into the habit of always charging your cell phone or have some way to charge it other than the power outlet, such as a car outlet, a portable charger, etc.
- Avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer door. A freezer will keep food frozen for up to 36 hours in some cases.
- Never use an appliance that produces carbon monoxide or an odorless and colorless toxic gas inside (charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or home generators indoors). Also, 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.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities.
- Use flashlights or LED type candles rather than candles which could start a fire.
If you must evacuate the house
If the cold weather makes your home uninhabitable and you need to evacuate it, here’s what to do:
Turn off the power
Turn off the main breaker or switch of the circuit-breaker panel or power-supply box.
Turn off the water
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 the 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 off – call the local gas supplier to re-light it.
- Unhook washing machine hoses and drain.
After the power returns
- 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 valves/taps on the lower floors to allow air to escape from upper taps.
- Make sure that the hot water heater is filled before turning it back on.
- Check food supplies in refrigerators, freezers, and cupboards for signs of spoilage.
Don’t forget your emergency kit
In the event of a power outage or other emergencies, it is important to have the following items at home:
- At least two litres of water per person per day. Include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order.
- Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods. (Remember to replace the food and water once a year.)
- Manual can opener
- Wind-up or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)
- Wind-up or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
- First aid kit
- Special items such as prescription medications, infant formula, and equipment for people with disabilities
- Cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones