How to prepare for power outages

The weather in Calgary is known to change on a dime and this can put a huge strain on electric power systems. Freezing rain, blizzards and high winds can damage power lines, meaning a loss of power for an unknown period of time. Most power outages are over in less than a minute, but what happens if the outage lasts an hour, a day, even a week? By preparing ahead of time, you can lessen the impact of a prolonged outage significantly. Here are a few steps you can follow:

  • Install a non-electric standby stove or heater. Choose units that don’t rely on an electric motor, fan or other electronic components to run. Do not connect two heating units to the same chimney flue at the same time.
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace, get the chimney cleaned once a year to reduce creosote build-up which could ignite and start a chimney fire.
  • If your standby stove or heater run off of the house gas lines, have a certified tradesperson come and install shut off valves.
  • Know the power requirements of your home before buying and using an emergency generator.
  • Know evacuation routes in case of emergency.
  • Build an emergency kit with a flashlight, batteries, a portable phone charger and extra clothes to keep warm.

The power is out. Now, what do you do?

  • Double check that the outage isn’t limited to your house. If your neighbours have power, it might be an issue with your circuit breaker or fuse box.
  • Notify your electric company of the outage.
  • Turn off all tools and appliances to lower the risk of damaging them when the power comes back (this includes lights). Leave only one on so you can tell when power comes back.
  • Use proper candle holders if you use candles as light sources. Don’t leave them unattended and keep them out of reach of kids.
  • Keep your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible. They will keep food cold for up to 36 hours. Keep a bag of ice in the freezer. If it melts, the food is probably bad. When in doubt, throw it out.

The power is back on. What next?

  • Don’t enter any flooded areas unless you know for sure the power is disconnected.
  • Don’t turn on any electrical devices that have been flooded. Have them inspected by a professional.
  • Replace the furnace flue if it was removed and turn off the standby heating unit.
  • Give the electrical system a chance to stabilize before reconnecting tools and appliances. Turn up your heat slowly.
  • Reset your clocks.
  • Restock your emergency kit.

Hopefully, these tips won’t need to be put into practice anytime soon, but it’s good to know how to handle emergency situations. With the unpredictable weather in Southern Alberta, you never know what it will be like tomorrow or even an hour from now. As it is Emergency Preparedness Week, we encourage you to stay prepared and stay safe, Calgary.