What do I do if the power goes out?

The electric power can go out if a large storm or accident damages power lines. Sometimes, the electricity provider turns off the power to make repairs. It may take hours or even days before the power is back. In the winter, you need to protect yourself and your home from the cold.

Do not call 9-1-1 if the power goes out.

First, find out if your neighbours have lost power, too. If they have power, it may be a problem at your home only. You may need to replace a fuse or have an electrician find out what the problem is.

If your neighbours have lost power too:

  • Call your local hydro supplier or Hydro One's province-wide emergency number: 1-800-434-1235.
  • Turn off and unplug large electrical appliances, but leave one light on so that you will know when the power is back on.
  • Turn on a battery-powered or wind-up radio for information.
  • Sometimes, a power outage means no running water. If you have no running water and want to continue to use your toilet, fill your bathtub from an alternate water source, for example, with snow or water from a creek. After you use the toilet, pour a bucket of water in the tank, then flush.

If it is winter:

  • Close doors and windows to keep heat in.
  • Put on heavy clothing.

In winter, there is a danger that your water pipes will freeze and burst. To prevent this, you should:

  • Collect some water in containers for drinking and cleaning purposes.
  • Shut off the main water supply.
  • Drain your water pipes by turning on all the taps.
  • Drain the hot water heating system by turning it off and leaving the valves open.
  • Add plumbing antifreeze or recreational vehicle winterizing solution to the toilet and anywhere else in your house where there is standing water. (If you have a septic tank, antifreeze could damage it. Make sure you pump the antifreeze out of your plumbing fixtures and pipes before you refill them with water. Do not drink water that has antifreeze in it.)
  • If your pipes do freeze, do not try to thaw them yourself. Contact a qualified plumber.

If your house becomes uninhabitable due to very low temperatures, you will need to evacuate it. Read the guide Power Outages - What to Do? from Public Safety Canada to learn more about protecting your house from damage when you must evacuate it.

What do I do while I wait for the power to come back on?

  • Don't open the fridge or freezer unless necessary to help foods stay colder longer.
  • Get your emergency kit and use the supplies you need.
  • Listen to a battery-powered or wind-up radio for updates.
  • If your basement is flooding, move all furniture to a dry location. Disconnect the power supply to prevent damage when the power comes back on.

If it is winter:

  • Stay in a room where you have another source of heat (for example, a fireplace or generator). Keep temperatures low but bearable. Wear warm clothing.

What do I do when the power comes back on?

  • Turn off emergency heating equipment.
  • If the outage was less than 4 hours, turn on only the most needed appliances and wait 10 - 15 minutes before turning on other appliances.
  • Check the food in the fridge and freezer. If your fridge/freezer was shut off for many hours, the food inside may not be good to eat anymore. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has food safety guidelines about knowing which foods from your fridge or freezer should be thrown away.
  • Remember to reset all your clocks, automatic timers and alarms.

If it is winter:

  • Let the water heater fill up before turning it on.
  • Warm your house at a temperature slightly above normal for a few hours to dry it out.
  • Do not enter a flooded basement unless you are sure the power is disconnected.

For More Information

  • Power Outages - Information from Hydro One about why power outages happen and how to manage them safely.
  • GetPrepared.ca - Learn about the risks in your area and how to prepare for emergencies.
Last updated: July 29, 2015 4001334