Prepare Your Home in Case of Power Failure - December 14th 2004


Prepare Your Home in Case of Power Failure

Power supply interruptions can last from a few hours to several days and are often caused by freezing rain, sleet storms and/or high winds which damage power lines and equipment. An extended power failure during winter months, and subsequent loss of heating, can result in cold, damp homes, severe living conditions and damage to walls, floors and plumbing.

Following these simple suggestions can reduce the harmful effects of power and heating failure in sub-zero weather.

Precautions to take

- 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 electrical device to function. It is also 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. If it is necessary to vent the standby heater to the existing chimney flue used by the furnace, first disconnect the furnace from it. Use only fuel-burning heaters certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Canadian Gas Association.

- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, clean the flue every fall in preparation for its use for home heating (i.e. sustained use at high temperatures). The creosote in a flue can be ignited by sustained high temperatures and develop into a chimney fire.

- If you have a fireplace, keep a good supply of fuel on hand.

- If the standby heating unit will use the normal house oil or gas supply, have it connected with shut-off valves by a competent technician.

- Before considering the use of an emergency generator during a power failure, check with furnace, appliance and lighting fixture dealers or manufacturers regarding power requirements and proper operating procedures.
- If someone in the home relies on electrically powered life-sustaining equipment, register with your electric supply authority and your community emergency program.

- Keep an emergency survival kit -- containing provisions for at least three days -- stored in a handy place.


The kit should include:

o Non-perishable food and water

o Emergency lighting such as flashlights with spare
batteries, candles, matches/lighter, or coal-oil lanterns and fuel

o Fuel stove and fuel (follow manufacturer's instructions)

o Blankets and warm clothing

o A battery-powered radio and spare batteries.

Please note: You should also consider having a portable emergency survival kit in the event that you have to evacuate your home.

In the event of a power failure

Check whether the power failure is limited to your home. If your neighbours' power is still on, check your own circuit-breaker panel or fuse box. If the problem is not a breaker or a fuse, check the service wires leading to the house. If you see damaged or broken wires, stay well back and notify your electric supply authority.

Don't use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment or home generators indoors. They give off carbon monoxide. Because you can't smell or see it, carbon monoxide can cause health problems and even kill you before you know it's there.

If you have to evacuate:
Low temperatures can damage a house, but the major threat is to the plumbing system. If a standby heating system is used, check to see that no part of the plumbing system can freeze.

If the house must be evacuated, protect it by taking the following precautions:

- Turn off the main breaker or switch of the circuit-breaker panel or power-supply box.

- 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 your 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. (If you drain a gas-fired water tank, the pilot light should be turned out -- and the local gas supplier should be called to re-light it!)

- Unhook washing-machine hoses and drain.

- Do not worry about small amounts of water trapped in horizontal pipes. Add a small amount of glycol or antifreeze to water left in the toilet bowl, the sink and bathtub traps.

- If your house is protected from groundwater by a sump pump, clear valuables from the basement floor in case of flooding.

- Listen to a battery-operated or car radio for more detailed local advice and instructions.

Please contact your provincial/territorial emergency management organization (EMO) for regional or local information on emergency preparedness.