Power Failures


On August 13, 2003, more than 10 million people in Ontario and 40 million in eight American states were left without electricity during the largest outage in North American history.  Many residents were caught off-guard and unprepared, having no battery back-up lighting or radios.  If a major power outage occurred again, would you be prepared?

Power failures in the County of Lambton

Power Failures

In Ontario, electricity demand is greatest in the summer than any other time of the year.  Heavy reliance on equipment such as air conditioners during hot weather places tremendous strain on power-generating facilities and electrical distribution systems.  In order to prevent total power failures, rotating outages are sometimes initiated to reduce that strain.  You can help reduce electricity demand by:

  • Turning off all but essential lights.
  • Setting air conditioners to 26°C or higher, or using fans as an alternative.
  • Closing curtains and blinds to keep out the sun and to keep the air cooler inside.
  • Avoiding or limiting the use of major appliances between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.


Power outages can occur for many other reasons such as equipment failure or damage caused by high winds and ice storms.  Residents should prepare for such events before they occur:

  • Store flashlights with fresh batteries in several places throughout your home and check them regularly.
  • Have at least one non-cordless phone in your home.  Most cordless phones will not work in a power outage.
  • Consider purchasing an external battery pack for your cell phone or tablet in order to extend its use (use your device sparingly though).  Note that wireless service may also be lost during an extended power outage.
  • If you have an automatic garage door opener, learn how to use the manual release and open your garage door manually.
  • Try to keep your car’s gas tank at least one quarter to half-full.  Many gas stations may not be in operation during a power outage.  Fill up your tank if a major storm is forecast.
  • Make sure you have a charging cord for your cell phone that will fit your vehicle’s accessory power outlet.
  • If you use special healthcare equipment like oxygen generators or dialysis machines, ask the supplier about power failures and notify your power company that you rely on electricity to power medical equipment.
  • Consider installing a back-up heating system or purchasing a generator. Before purchasing a generator, speak to an electrician about types, proper sizing and connection options.  Know how to operate your generator safely and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Learn how to shut off the water to your home and how to drain your waterlines to prevent them from freezing (and potentially bursting) during long-duration power outages, in extremely cold temperatures.

During a power outage

  • Listen to a battery-powered or “crank” radio tuned to a local station to find out what is happening.
  • Use your wireless device to occasionally check the “outages” page of your electricity supplier’s website (see bottom of this page).
  • Do not call 9-1-1 to report power outages.  If you need to report an outage, contact your local electricity provider.
  • Do not use the telephone unless absolutely necessary.  Emergency personnel may be attempting to communicate with each other by telephone.
  • Cell phone towers may be tied up with calls.  You may however be able to text friends or family because texting requires less data.
  • Turn off all tools, appliances, computers or other electrical equipment – power can be restored more easily when the system is not overloaded.
  • Do not open your fridge or freezer unless absolutely necessary.  Discard any thawed food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Check on elderly or disabled neighbours.
  • Use caution if you must travel – traffic and street lights may not be working.
  • Do not use barbecues, gas heaters or electrical generators indoors – they produce deadly carbon monoxide.
  • When the power comes back on, give the electrical system a chance to stabilize before reconnecting tools and appliances.

Your preparations ahead of time, will help determine how comfortable you will be during a power failure.  Municipal warming or cooling centres may be opened during long-term outages, but residents should be prepared to take care of their own needs for at least 72 hours.  Visit the Government of Canada’s “Get Prepared” website for more details about preparing for power failures.

Below is contact information and websites for electricity providers in Lambton County.  Be sure to visit their websites for more information about electrical safety and power outages:

Hydro One Emergencies & Outages
Phone: 1-800-434-1235

Bluewater Power Emergency Service
Phone: 519-337-8201

Prepare for a power failure at home
Have battery-powered radios and lighting ready for power outages.
Power failure from power lines down after ice storm
Plan how to keep warm during a winter power outage.