Power Outages: Before, During & After

Power outages

Power outages can happen in any place at any time, and can last a few hours or days. The best way to protect yourself and your family in case of a power outage is to follow these steps:

  • Have at least three days of emergency supplies available - water, non-perishable food, medications and personal needs, etc. See Get a Kit  
  • Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or home generators indoors because they give off carbon monoxide.

Before

  • The key to staying safe is to prepare and to have an emergency plan in place.
  • Power outages are so closely tied to weather. Listen to local news and weather reports for information on changing weather conditions. You can stay informed by following storm warnings and weather forecasts through Public Weather Alerts Canada.
  • Make a personalized preparedness emergency kit. Families should be prepared to be self-sustaining for at least three days.
  • Kits should include practical items such as drinking water, food, cash, and a portable radio. However, they should also include items that are unique to your own families’ needs. This could include baby items, medical prescriptions, pet food, etc.
  • If you have already dipped into your emergency kit and food supply while staying at home, consider safely getting the supplies to replenish it following your local public health authorities’ guidelines for leaving your residence.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic also add hygiene items such as hand sanitizer and non-medical masks to your kit to keep your family safe during an evacuation.
  • Plan for persons with functional needs such as essential medical equipment or mobility issues. Consider how they may be affected in a power outage – for example, if you are without elevator service. 
  • Know where municipality shelters are located.
  • Protect all your sensitive electrical appliances with a surge-protecting power bar. 
  • If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, like an electrician. Make sure the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need. 
  • Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. If it’s hard-wired to the house’s electricity supply, make sure it has a battery-power back-up.
  • Make sure you keep a flashlight with working batteries in a place that is easily accessible and where everyone can find it. 
  • Have a non-powered phone available. Landlines may still work without power.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full. 

During

  • Listen 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 or hydro company, near your telephone.
  • If your neighbours' power is also out, contact your power or hydro 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.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours. A freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if the door remains closed.
  • Turn off all your lights, except one inside and one outside, so that both you and hydro crews outside know that power has been restored.
  • Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or home generators indoors because they give off carbon monoxide.
  • Use flashlights, not candles to reduce fire risk
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads may be congested. 

If you need to evacuate
If you have to evacuate your home immediately, grab your emergency kit and listen to authorities or community leaders.

After

  • Following public health guidelines in your province/territory, check on vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who may require assistance. 
  • Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family away from them. Report downed power lines to the appropriate officials in your area. 
  • Check the outside of the house for any signs of damage or danger. 
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Check food supplies in refrigerators, freezers and cupboards for signs of spoilage. If a freezer door has been kept closed, food should stay frozen for 24-36 hours, depending on the temperature. When food begins to defrost it should be thrown out. 
  • Turn on the main power switch and gradually turn on appliances and electronics to avoid damage as a result of a power surge. 
  • Experiencing a disaster is challenging enough, but during the COVID-19 pandemic it can feel even more difficult. The Red Cross has many resources available to help you navigate these challenging times. You can also find mental and emotional wellbeing resources on the Public Health Agency of Canada, or any provincial/territorial health authority website.

After a Disaster

Recovering after a disaster can be overwhelming. Check out what resources the Red Cross has to offer.

Read more

Get an Emergency Kit

Getting or making a kit is the final step in being ready for any emergency. Find out what you need to put in it.

Read more