You can prepare for potential hazards by having a plan in place to deal with anticipated impacts of an event. Having your plan and emergency kit prepared in advance is the best way to support your family and pets. You may need to Shelter in Place or “hunker down” in your home for at least 72 hours (3 days) without needing to leave for supplies. Plan to be without power in many hazards that could occur.
Most power outages will be over almost as soon as they begin, but some can last much longer - up to days or even weeks. Power outages are often caused by high winds, freezing rain, or sleet storms which damage power lines and equipment. Cold snaps or heat waves can also overload the electric power system.
During a power outage, you may be left without heating/air conditioning, lighting, hot water, or even running water. If you only have a cordless phone, you will also be left without phone service. If you do not have a battery-powered or crank radio, you may have no way of monitoring news broadcasts. In other words, you could be facing major challenges.
You can greatly lessen the impact of a power outage by taking the time to prepare in advance. You and your family should be prepared to cope on your own during a power outage for at least 72 hours.
Before a power outage
- You can install a non-electric standby stove or heater. Choose heating units that are not dependent on an electric motor, electric fan, or some other electric device to function. It is important to adequately vent the stove or heater with the type of chimney flue specified for it. Never connect two heating units to the same chimney flue at the same time.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned every fall in preparation for use and to eliminate creosote build-up which could ignite and cause a chimney fire.
- If the standby heating unit will use the normal house oil or gas supply, have it connected with shut-off valves by a certified tradesperson.
- Before considering the use of an emergency generator during a power outage, check with furnace, appliance and lighting fixture dealers or manufacturers regarding power requirements and proper operating procedures.
People with disabilities or special needs others requiring assistance should take extra precautions to prepare for a power outage.
Consider how you may be affected by a power outage, including:
- Know your evacuation route - without elevator service (if applicable).
- Plan for a backup power supply for essential medical equipment.
- Keep a flashlight and a cell phone handy to signal for help.
- Establish a self-help network to assist and check on you during an emergency.
- Enrol in a medical alert program that will signal for help if you are immobilized.
- Keep a list of facilities that provide life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
- Keep a list of medical conditions and treatments.
- If you live in an apartment, advise the property management that you may need assistance staying in your apartment or that you must be evacuated if there is a power outage.
- For more information, visit People with Disabilities or Special Needs
During a power outage
- First, check whether the power outage is limited to your home. If your neighbours' power is still on, check your own circuit breaker panel or fuse box. If the problem is not a breaker or a fuse, check the service wires leading to the house. If they are obviously damaged or on the ground, stay at least 10 meters back and notify your electric supply authority. Keep the number along with other emergency numbers near your telephone.
- Notify your electric supply company. Until Smart Meters are installed, the power company does not know you are without power.
- Turn off all tools, appliances and electronic equipment, and turn the thermostat(s) for the home heating system down to a minimum to prevent damage from a power surge when power is restored. Also, power can be restored more easily when there is not a heavy load on the electrical system.
- Turn off all lights, except one inside and one outside, so that both you and hydro crews outside know that power has been restored. Keep in mind if a generator is powering lights, the crews may not see that power is out.
- Don't open your freezer or fridge unless it is 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 or in garages. They give off carbon monoxide. Because you can't smell or see it, carbon monoxide can cause health problems and is life-threatening.
- Use proper candle holders. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep them out of reach of children. Always extinguish candles before going to bed.
- Listen to your battery-powered or wind-up radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities.
- If the power goes out while you are cooking be sure to turn off the stove and clear the burners and oven to prevent a fire when power is restored.
- Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. If it is hard-wired to the house's electrical supply, ensure it has a battery-powered backup.
- Protect sensitive electrical appliances such as TVs, computers, and DVD players with a surge-protecting powerbar.
If you have to evacuate during a winter emergency
- Evacuation is more likely during the winter months when plummeting temperatures can make a house inhabitable. Although a house can be damaged by low temperatures, the major threat is to the plumbing system. If a standby heating system is used, check to see that no part of the plumbing system can freeze. If the house must be evacuated, protect it by taking the following precautions:
- Turn off the main breaker or switch off the circuit-breaker panel or power-supply box.
- Turn off the water main where it enters the house. Protect the valve, inlet pipe, and meter or pump with blankets or insulation material.
- Drain the water from your plumbing system. Starting at the top of the house, open all taps, and flush toilets several times. Go to the basement and open the drain valve. Drain your hot water tank by attaching a hose to the tank drain valve and running it to the basement floor drain.
- Note: If you drain a gas-fired water tank, the pilot light should be turned out - call the local gas supplier to re-light it.
- Unhook washing machine hoses and drain.
- Do not worry about small amounts of water trapped in horizontal pipes. Add a small amount of glycol or antifreeze to the water left in the toilet bowl, and the sink and bathtub traps.
- If your house is protected from groundwater by a sump pump, clear valuables from the basement floor in case of flooding.
- As you evacuate and then return home, be cautious and take the same safety measures you would when there is no emergency: buckle up and do not drink and drive. Also, make sure that children are properly buckled up and in the rear seat.
After a power outage
- For safety, consider all cables and wires to be energized whether they are electrical, cable or telephone and stay 10 meters or a school bus distance away. If a line is in the water, there is even more reason to be cautious and consider it and the water energized. Keep children away from all flooded areas and areas with lots of debris because the water or storm debris could be hiding an energized line.
- Don’t try to remove or trim branches near a power line. If a tree or tree limbs have fallen on a power line or pulled it down, keep a safe distance from the line or the tree.
- When an energized line makes contact with the ground, the earth becomes energized. The voltage dissipates in circles away from the initial contact point. Never walk or run from a downed power line - hop or shuffle to safety.
- Don’t attempt to access your electrical panel if there is water in the immediate area.
- Don’t enter a flooded basement unless you are sure the power is disconnected.
- Don’t use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse-breaker panels until they have been checked and cleaned by a qualified electrician.
- Replace the furnace flue (if removed) and turn off the fuel to the standby heating unit.
- Switch on the main electric switch (before, check to ensure appliances, electric heaters, TVs, microwaves computers, etc. were unplugged to prevent damage from a power surge).
- Give the electrical system a chance to stabilize before reconnecting tools and appliances. Turn the heating-system thermostats up first, followed in a couple of minutes by reconnection of the fridge and freezer. Wait for 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting all other tools and appliances.
- Close the drain valve in the basement.
- Turn on the water supply. Close lowest valves/taps first and allow air to escape from upper taps.
- Make sure that the hot water heater is filled before turning on the power to it.
- Check food supplies in refrigerators, freezers, and cupboards for signs of spoilage. If a freezer door has been kept closed, food should stay frozen 24 to 36 hours, depending on the temperature. When food begins to defrost (usually after two days), it should be cooked; otherwise, it should be thrown out.
- As a general precaution, keep a bag of ice cubes in the freezer. If you return home after a period of absence and the ice has melted and refrozen, there is a good chance that the food is spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Reset your clocks, automatic timers, and alarms.
- Restock your emergency kit so the supplies will be there when needed again.
Important Information Regarding your Meter Mast
Storms can cause electrical damage to individual properties that require a certified electrician to repair before we can safely restore the power to your home or business. If your meter mast is damaged, you need to get an electrical contractor to make repairs before we can restore power. Ensure you refill your supplies to be ready the next time a storm hits. Read more on NS Power’s Meter Mast Repair.
Blue: Nova Scotia Power owns the electrical meter and the service wire that connects your home to the power lines on your street.
Yellow: The meter mast and meter base belong to the custom. If damaged, you must have them repaired by a certified electrician before we can reonnect power
Source: Get Prepared and Nova Scotia Power: Prepare and Stay Safe
For more information about Power Outages visit Power Outages: What to do? - Government of Canada (PDF)
Tree Trimming to Help Prevent Power Outage
As a resident, you can assist in reducing power outages by keeping trees trimmed or planting the best type of trees around your home. Trimming trees before they grow to the height of the power lines and keeping large trees away from poles helps reduce trees falling on lines/poles in high winds, resulting in power outages.
Did you know some trees on the property are your responsibility and others are the responsibility of the power company? For Nova Scotia Power customers, below is an infographic of who is responsible for the trees. For residents who are not supplied by Nova Scotia Power, ask your power company what trees you are responsible for. By keeping your trees trimmed, you can assist in keeping power on to your home, and also your neighbours. Ensure your own safety, only trim trees if it is safe to do so and with proper equipment. You may want to hire an experienced contractor.
NS Power Responsibility
These wires are high voltage and dangerous. It is Nova Scotia Power's responsibility to maintain safe clearance around these wires for the health of the electrical system. If you see or a tree on or near these wires, please call us at 1-800-428-6230.
Emergency situations require Nova Scotia Power's immediate attention. tree laying on a power line can cause flickering lights the home or damage to a utility pole and equipment. If you see this kind of situation, please call us immediately at 1-800-428-6230.
These wires require a local contractor to complete the tree work needed around them.
A low-voltage service wire brings electricity from the street power pole through to a metal mast on your house, which belongs to you. Trees around service wires could damage your mast and cause a power interruption to your home. Trimming is your responsibility. Qualified contractors are able to work around service wires.
Communication wires (with black insulation around them) are the lower wires that run along the street and into your house, transmitting phone, cable and Internet signals. These are not electrical wires. Trees around these wires do not threaten the electrical system.
Support cables provide physical support Nova Scotia to utility poles. These are not electrical wires. Trees or bushes around these wires do not threaten the electrical system.
Also, there are better trees to grow if you plan on planting near power lines or your home. Planting trees that do not grow as high as the power lines is one way to reduce power outages as trees are not blowing and falling into power lines or onto poles. Trees are such a positive aspect of healthy living and growing the right trees in the right locations will be helpful during major winds and storms.
Visit Tree Trimming (Emera) for more information for a good selection of trees to plant.
Use of home generators