Power outages: Causes, preparation, and what to do during and after

What are the causes of power outages?

There are two types of power outage: planned and unplanned. Planned outages are scheduled by your electricity company to maintain the network and to protect their workers while they perform their duties, such as cutting tree branches near a hydro pole. Clients are advised of these planned outages.

The majority of power outages are unplanned. Here are some of their causes:

  • Extreme weather events (thunderstorms, ice storms, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes)
  • Accidents (a driver crashing into, or a tree falling onto, a telephone pole)
  • Animals (a squirrel or a raccoon chewing through a cable)
  • High usage (overloaded electricity grid due to higher than normal usage)

Since power outages can occur at any time, it is important you be prepared for such an event. You should always have the following items close at hand:

  • A flashlight and batteries
  • A battery-powered radio
  • Candles
  • A fondue burner and fuel
  • A lighter and/or matches
  • Warm blankets
  • A supply of wood if you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace

If you use a combustion heating system in your home, such as a gas or wood fireplace, make sure to install a functioning carbon monoxide detector and learn how to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

What to do during a power outage

Your electricity company will provide updates on the status of the outage. You can keep abreast of the situation by either calling the company, checking their website or by listening for the latest news on a battery-powered radio.

Avoid constantly opening the fridge or freezer in order to preserve your food as long as possible. If you have vulnerable neighbours, check on their status to see if they need any help.

Do not use items like a charcoal or propane barbecue indoors. In addition to causing a fire risk, these items release carbon monoxide—an odourless, colourless gas that can cause sickness and death. If you are using candles for lighting, do so safely as they can be a fire risk.

If the outage is expected to last several days, you may need to leave your home, especially during the winter months. If you do not have a place to stay, your municipality will provide you with information about temporary shelters. Before you leave, turn off the main power breaker and backup heating system if you have one. In addition, close the main water valve and drain the pipes. Pour antifreeze into the toilet tanks and bowls and into all the sink drains.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *