In the August 2003 black out, we lived in a condominium. My wife and I made our separate ways back home from work. The first thing I did was fill the bathtub with water to keep a supply at hand, and then I grabbed all the candles and pulled out the battery powered radio. The weather was hot, and the evening went by nicely.
We have a 72 hour emergency kit. I came across a pamphlet entitled 'Power Outages: What To Do' (PDF document 167kb) on the 'Get Prepared' Government of Canada web site. I have copied the most pertinent parts of it below.
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. This involves three basic steps:
1) Finding out on what to do before, during, and after a power outage.
2) Making a family emergency plan, so that everyone knows what to do, and where to go if you need to leave your home.
3) Getting an emergency kit, so that you and your family can be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours during a power outage.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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:
• Your evacuation route — without elevator service (if applicable)
• Planning for a backup power supply for essential medical equipment
• Keeping a flashlight and a cell phone handy to signal for help
• Establishing a self-help network to assist and check on you during an emergency
• Enrolling in a medical alert program that will signal for help if you are immobilized
• Keeping a list of facilities that provide life-sustaining equipment or treatment
• Keeping a list of medical conditions and treatment
• 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.
DURING A POWER OUTAGE
• First, check whether the power outage 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 they are obviously damaged or on the ground, stay at least 10 meters back and notify your electric supply authority. Keep the number along with other emergency numbers near your telephone.
• If your neighbours’ power is also out, notify your electric supply authority.
• Turn off all tools, appliances and electronic equipment, and turn the thermostat(s) for the home heating system down to minimum to prevent damage from a power surge when power is restored. Also, power can be restored more easily when there is not a heavy load on the electrical system.
• Turn off all lights, except one inside and one outside, so that both you and hydro crews outside know that power has been restored.
• Don’t open your freezer or fridge unless it is absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if the door remains closed.
• Never 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 is life-threatening.
• Use proper candle holders. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep out of reach of children. Always extinguish candles before going to bed. Listen to your battery-powered or wind-up radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities.
• Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. If it is hard-wired to the house’s electrical supply, ensure it has a battery-powered back-up.
• Protect sensitive electrical appliances such as TVs, computer, and DVD players with a surge-protecting powerbar.
MAKE AN EMERGENCY PLAN
Every Canadian household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family to know what to do in case of an emergency. Remember, your family may not be together when the power goes out.
Start by discussing what could happen and what you should do at home, at school or at work if an emergency happens. To be prepared, make a list of what needs to be done ahead of time. Store important family documents, such as birth certificates, passports, wills, financial documents, insurance policies, etc. in waterproof container(s). Identify an appropriate out-of-town contact that can act as a central point of contact in an emergency. Write down and exercise your plan with the entire family at least once a year. Make sure everybody has a copy and keeps it close at hand. For more information on making an emergency plan, call 1 800 O-Canada or visit www.GetPrepared.ca to download or complete an emergency plan online.
In an emergency you will need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without power or tap water. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.
You may have some of the items already, such as a flashlight, battery-operated radio, food, and water. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. Would you be able to find your flashlight in the dark? Make sure your kit is easy to carry. Keep it in a backpack, duffel bag or suitcase with wheels, in an easy-to-reach, accessible place, such as your front hall closet. Make sure everyone in the household knows where the emergency kit is.
Basic emergency kit
• Water – at least two litres of water per person per day. Include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
• Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (remember to replace the food and water once a year)
• Manual can opener
• Wind-up or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)
• Wind-up or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
• First aid kit
• Special items such as prescription medications, infant formula and equipment for people with disabilities
• Extra keys to your car and house
• Cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills (travellers cheques are also useful) and change for payphones
• A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
Tip: You may want to ensure you have a land-line and corded phone in your home, as most cordless phones will not work during a power outage.
Recommended additional items
• Candles and matches or lighter (Do not leave candles unattended. Place candles in sturdy containers and put them out before going to sleep)
• A change of clothing and footwear for each household member
• Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
• A whistle (in case you need to attract attention)
• Garbage bags for personal sanitation
• Toilet paper and other personal care supplies
• Safety gloves
• Basic tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, fasteners, work gloves)
• Small fuel-driven stove and fuel (follow manufacturer’s directions and store properly)
• Two extra litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning.
You can also purchase a pre-packaged emergency kit from the Canadian Red Cross at www.redcross.ca, from the St. John Ambulance/ Salvation Army at www.sja.ca or from retailers across Canada. Visit www.GetPrepared.ca for a list of retailers by province and territory.
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