Power Failures

Introduction

On August 13, 2003, more than 50 million people living in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and eight American states were left without electricity during the largest blackout 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.

Preparedness

Power outages can occur for many other reasons such as equipment failure or damage caused by high winds and ice storms for example.  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 phone with a handset cord in your home.  Most cordless phones will not work in a 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 half full.  Many gas stations will not be in operation during a power outage.  Fill up your tank if a major storm is predicted.
  • Make sure you have a car or lighter plug cord for your cell phone.
  • 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 proper sizing, types and connection options.  Know how to operate your generator safely and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

During a power outage

  • Listen to a battery-powered or “crank” radio tuned to a local station to find out what is happening.
  • 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.
  • 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
www.hydroone.com

Bluewater Power Emergency Service
Phone: 519-337-8201
www.bluewaterpower.com

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.