In our What to Do series, we explore common emergencies such as what to do if someone is experiencing a panic attack, or having a stroke; but with extreme cold weather in effect across Canada, we’re now taking a look at what to do if you experience a power outage.

Blizzards and winter conditions can bring about power outages but, with extreme cold, would you be prepared to be without power for possibly days? From staying warm safely, safeguarding property such as preventing frozen pipes, to surviving for up to 72 hours without heat or electricity, here are some tips to prepare you for what to do should the power go out.

What you should do before

The best way to protect yourself and your family in case of a power outage is to follow these three steps:
  1. Know your risks: Find out the most common causes of power outages.
  2. Make a plan: Work with your family to make a plan so that when a power outage happens, you are ready.
  3. Get a kit: You can buy a preparedness kit from the Red Cross, or make your own.
Read more about steps you can take to prepare ahead of an emergency such as a power outage

Tips on what to do during a power outage
  • Always be prepared with an emergency kit containing essential basic suppliesListen to your battery-powered or wind-up radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities.
  • Check whether the power outage is only in your home. If your neighbours' power is still on, check your circuit breaker panel or fuse box. Keep emergency numbers, like your power company, near your telephone.
  • If your neighbours' power is also out, contact your power company. 
  • Turn off all your appliances and electronic equipment, and turn your heating thermostats down to a minimum to prevent damage from a power surge when the power is restored.
  • Turn off all your lights, except one inside and one outside, so that both you and power crews outside know that power has been restored.
  • Don't open your freezer or fridge unless it’s 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 because they give off carbon monoxide.
  • Use proper candle holders (deep, wide holders are best) and never leave lit candles unattended.
Do:
  • Report downed power lines – and stay well away.
  • Secure windows and doors as well as outdoor furniture and equipment.
  • Park vehicles in protected areas, if possible.
  • Keep a few taps slightly open to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Limit cell phone use to conserve battery life.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbours – and offer help if they need it.
  • Keep generators outdoors, well away from windows and doors.
Don’t:
  • Use BBQs, propane heaters or portable generators indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, covered porches and sheds – they generate carbon monoxide gas, which can be fatal.
  • Use a gas stove as a source of heat.
  • Open your fridge or freezer more than necessary. Do not place frozen food outside even in winter.
  • Go near areas of standing water, like a flooded basement or building.
  • Leave candles unattended. Whenever possible, use a flashlight.
  • Touch or go near a downed line – they can cause injury or death.
For what to do to stay safe after a power outage, find some information from Public Safety Canada.