Power Outages

woman reading on couch beside fireplace

The power is out! Here is a checklist of things to take care of when the power is out.

What to keep handy at all times

  • Keep candles and matches on hand. Have solid, stable holders for them, and be especially careful if there are children or pets around.
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it.

When the lights go out

  • Determine whether it is really a power outage or a problem with your own breaker.
  • Check your main electrical panel. If you have blown a fuse or tripped a breaker, one or more of the switches may be turned off. Turn it back on and power should be restored.
  • If it is not a fuse or a breaker, check to see whether power is out for your neighbours, too. Power can be lost in a very localized area.
  • If it is an outage, call your utility company and report it. They may already know about the problem and be working to fix it.


  • Purchase a phone that only needs to plug into a phone jack – not an electrical outlet. Cordless phones or extension phones that need electricity will not work during power outages.
  • Use a battery-powered radio to keep up with the news. Make sure you have extra batteries.
  • Use your car radio in an emergency, but don’t keep the car running in an enclosed garage.

Turn off your appliances

There are many reasons to turn off appliances you were using when the power went out:

  • Protect your appliances. When power returns, there will be a surge of electrical energy that could damage sensitive equipment like computers, laptops, or televisions.
  • Protect yourself. During an outage, it is easy to forget that you had a stove burner or an iron on. If you’re not home when power is restored, you could have a serious safety hazard.
  • Helping your utility to restore service. Restarting appliances can use almost double the amount of electricity that they use when running normally. This demand can cause breakers to trip. Don’t have all your appliances waiting to draw power the instant it is restored.

How to turn off appliances without power:

  • Unplug them one by one. Leave a light on to let you know when electricity has been restored. Be careful not to miss an appliance or get injured moving around in the dark.
  • Turn off your main circuit breaker. This way, you won’t overlook anything, but you will have to keep an eye on streetlights to let you know that power has been restored.

Stay cool

In hot weather, if the outage is likely to be prolonged. Use these tips to keep cool as your house heats up:

  • Drink plenty of water – your body stays cool more efficiently when well hydrated.
  • Keep an eye on young children and the elderly for signs of heat exhaustion. Call 9-1-1 in case of a medical emergency.
  • Go to the basement. It is often cooler than the rest of the house.
  • Dress in loose, light clothing.
  • Draw drapes or cover south-facing windows with blankets to keep the sun out.
  • Keep a window slightly open for a breeze.

Think safety

  • Do not run extension cords to a neighbour who still has power. It is a fire hazard.

Rethink standby generators

  • A standby generator can be extremely dangerous if it is not connected properly and operated knowledgeably.
  • Residential consumers probably do not need a standby generator to cope with shorter outages.
  • For a prolonged outage, you will need to have stored enough fuel to operate it.