Most power outages will be over almost as soon as they begin, but some can last much longer – up to days or even weeks. Power outages are often caused by freezing rain, sleet storms and/or high winds which damage power lines and equipment. Cold snaps or heat waves can also overload the electric power system.

During a power outage, you may be left without heating/air conditioning, lighting, hot water, or even running water. If you only have a cordless phone, you will also be left without phone service. If you do not have a battery-powered or crank radio, you may have no way of monitoring news broadcasts. In other words, you could be facing major challenges.

You can greatly lessen the impact of a power outage by taking the time to prepare in advance. You and your family should be prepared to cope on your own during a power outage for at least 72 hours.

Preparing your home

  1. 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 electric device to function. It is 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.
  2. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned every fall in preparation for use and to eliminate creosote build-up which could ignite and cause a chimney fire.
  3. If the standby heating unit will use the normal house oil or gas supply, have it connected with shut-off valves by a certified tradesperson.
  4. Before considering the use of an emergency generator during a power outage, check with furnace, appliance and lighting fixture dealers or manufacturers regarding power requirements and proper operating procedures.

People with disabilities or others requiring assistance

Consider how you may be affected in a power outage, including:

  1. Your evacuation route – without elevator service (if applicable).
  2. Planning for a backup power supply for essential medical equipment.
  3. Keeping a flashlight and a cell phone handy to signal for help.
  4. Establishing a self-help network to assist and check on you during an emergency.
  5. Enrolling in a medical alert program that will signal for help if you are immobilized.
  6. Keeping a list of facilities that provide life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
  7. Keeping a list of medical conditions and treatment.
  8. If you live in an apartment, advise the property management that you may need assistance staying in your apartment or that you must be evacuated if there is a power outage. This will allow the property manager to plan and make the necessary arrangements on your behalf.
 Emergency Procedures During Power Outages

If you have more than one phone line coming into your home, consider switching service to two separate telephone companies. Often, both services won"t stop working simultaneously.

If your home is flooded, on fire, squashed by a tree or any other type of emergency happens, immediately call the fire department. Program the number for your local police department into your cell phone because 911 might not ring at an emergency source from a cell.
Tape the following phone numbers to the bottom of your land-line telephone or inside a telephone book:
  1. Fire department
  2. Telephone company(ies)
  3. Utility companies
  4.  Police department
Refrigerated Food Safety 
Refrigerated food must be kept at temperatures of 40 degrees to avoid spoiling. Do not taste food to figure out if it"s safe to eat.
  1. A closed refrigerator will keep food safe for about four hours.
  2. A closed freezer will maintain food quality for about 48 hours if full, 24 hours if half full.
  3. 50 pounds of dry ice will keep a freezer cold for two days.
If your power outage lasts longer than four to eight hours, discard the following items:
  1. Eggs
  2. Mayonnaise
  3. Leftovers
  4. Milk products (except butter)
  5. Fresh meats, poultry and seafood
  6. Soft cheeses, low-fat cheese and shredded cheese
  7. Creamy-based dressings, gravy and spaghetti sauce
After an extended power outage, discard all previously frozen products except breads, nuts, hard cheeses, fruit juices.

Sources: about.com and http://www.getprepared.gc.ca