Power failures are often caused by extreme weather conditions like windstorms, snowstorms our icestorms.
They are usually short-lived. If they last long, however, especially during the winter months, their consequences can be more serious for your health and safety.
Do you know what to do in the case of a power failure that lasts several hours or several days?
Preparing for a Power Failure
Always store these items in a readily accessible place:
- A flashlight and spare batteries.
- A battery-operated radio.
- A fondue warmer and necessary fuel.
- A lighter or matches.
- A warm blanket.
- Games and books to pass the time.
If you have a wood stove or a fireplace, stock up on fuelwood. Install a carbon monoxide detector and test it regularly to make sure it is operating properly.
What Should You Do During a Power Failure?
- Listen to the news on the radio.
- Turn thermostats down to the minimum.
- Disconnect all electrical appliances and electronic equipement, except one lamp for each floor, to protect appliances or equipment from damage due to a voltage surge when power is restored.
- Do not open the fridge or freezer unnecessarily. This will keep food frozen for 24 to 48 hours.
- Unless your municipality indicates otherwise, open water taps to let a small stream of water flow and flush the toilet several times throughout the day to prevent pipes from freezing.
- If you have a standby heating system, turn it on before your home gets too cold. If your standby heating system has to be connected to an existing chimney flue used by the furnace, turn off the standby heating system before you connect it.
Several appliances increase fire hazard risks and release carbon monoxide, a clear and odourless gas that can be deadly.
Never use outdoor heating units, lights or stoves, such as propane or charcoal barbecues, camping heaters or propane stoves indoors.
If you Use a Generator
- A licensed electrician must connect your generator to the electrical grid.
- Turn off the main power switch before you connect the generator.
- Set it up outside on a raised base, not on the ground, quite a distance from any doors or windows. Make sure it’s sheltered from bad weather.
- Check to make sure cables are not in contact with water and that connector clips are securely attached to the fuse-box terminals. If in doubt, check with your electric company and test the setup before a power outage occurs.
- Make sure exhaust fumes cannot enter your home through a window or an air vent.
- Do not exceed the generator’s current capacity.
- Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling it.
If a Power Outage Lasts Several Days
Leave your home if it is too cold. If you are unsure of where to go, contact your municipality to find out if a temporary shelter for disaster victims has been set up. Don’t forget to bring along your emergency kit.
Before you leave:
- Turn off the water main where it enters the house and drain the water from your plumbing system. Pour antifreeze into toilets and sink drains.
- Turn off the main power breaker and the gas shut off valve.
- Wait for the Québec civil security authorities’ authorization before returning to your home.
What Do You Do when Power Is Restored?
- Make sure the water heater is full of water before turning the electricity back on.
- Turn the main power switch on and gradually turn on appliances and electronics.
- Turn on the water main and taps to allow air to escape.
- Do not turn gas back on by yourself; ask a qualified professional to do this for you.
Beware of Food Poisoning!
Discard any food in your fridge or freezer that shows signs of spoilage.
Most home insurance policies contain special coverage in case of loss of food stored in a freezer.
Check the website of the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation (in French only) to find out what you can keep and what you must discard after a long power outage.