Electricity Power Blackout and Outage tips
Emergency preparedness tips for your home
v1.3, by Robert Levitt, December 12, 2008, (first version was August 24, 2003)
Blackouts and "load shedding" (ie. brownouts and rolling blackouts) are most likely at times of peak power usage such as
during the coldest part of the winter in January and February (with the added risk of ice storms bringing down power lines,) and
during summer heatwaves. The summer has an added risk of local hydro transformer fires due to the combination of transformers
overheating due to the heavy power loads plus the high ambient temperatures and additional heating due to the hot sun on them.
Assemble an emergency preparedness kit with:
- plenty of water (in general a minimum of 4 litres per person per day is needed);
Water can be partially supplemented with canned or tetra pak juices.
- ready-to-eat foods that do not need refridgeration.. Don't forget the manually operated can opener;
- flashlights, and particularly the new crank powered flashlights because batteries are not necessary;
- portable radio, particularly the new crank powered radios because batteries are not necessary;
- alkaline batteries, stored separately from electronic equipment (such as radios) in case of battery leakage.
"Heavy duty batteries" are not recommended for emergency use, as they have much less
power capability, a much shorter shelf life and are much more prone to leaking.
- money. Remember bank machines will not operate during a blackout. You may want to keep a small amount of cash ready for this situation.
Place the emergency kit in a pre-designated location so that you can find it in the dark.
Do not use candles for lighting. Candles are in the top three causes of household fires.
Turn off all but one light or a radio so that you'll know when the power returns.
Check that the stove, ovens, electric kettles, irons, air conditioners and (non-wall or ceiling mounted) lights are off. These can
be serious safety issues if you forget you have left some of these devices on. Also by keeping them turned off will
prevent heavy start-up loads which could cause a second blackout when the utilities restart the power.
Turn off or unplug home electronics and computers to protect them from
damage when the electricity returns, in case of power surges.
Listen to local radio and television for updated information. (The reason for having a battery or crank powered (ie. portable) radio.)
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. A full modern freezer will stay frozen for up to 48 hours;
partially full freezers for 24 hours. Most food in the fridge will last 24 hours except dairy products,
which should be discarded after six hours. These estimates decrease each time the refrigerator door is opened.
Do not ration water (or juice). If you are thirsty you need the fluids. If it is hot you
need to drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
- Remember to provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.
Keep off the telephone unless it is an emergency, or for short periods if it is for an important
purpose such as checking up on your loved ones, particularly people who have disabilities or infirmaties.
In summer: open windows at opposing ends of a room to create a cross breeze in the
absence of air conditioning and electric fans.
In summer: close blinds, curtains, drapes, windows and doors on the sunny side of
your home to block out the heat from the sun.
In winter: open blinds, curtains and drapes during the day on the sunny side of your home
to let sunlight and its heat during the sunny days, and close during the night. Otherwise keep them
closed to keep the heat in. You may also want to use window insulation kits or plastic sheeting to
add extra insulation to keep the heat in.
In winter: make sure you have extra blankets. Also make sure you have a bucket and
a wet mop to soak up any water from frozen and burst water pipes.
While generally unnecessary and expensive, if you are using a gas-powered generator,
run it in a well-ventilated area and not in a closed areas such as a room or garage. They can
give off deadly carbon monoxide fumes. And do not hook up the generator to your local wiring,
instead plug in the items you want or need into the generator. For short-term use a much safer
and cheaper alternative is an inverter with built-in battery.
Do not use propane or other combustion-type heaters indoors due to the probability of toxic carbon monoxide buildup.
Other emergency preparedness issues:
Water pressure may drop and even stop above a certain height in high-rise buildings due
to their water pumps losing power.
Remember that electrical devices such as elevators will not work.
You can not predict when a blackout will strike to make a choice about using elevators, but
if a blackout does strike, check the elevators of any of the building you are in to hear
if there are people stuck; in which case call up the fire department to get the people out.
Electrically operated garage doors will not work. While landlords may be able
to hoist the heavy door up manually, some may not want to do so for security purposes or because
it volates the conditions of their insurance policies.