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What to do During a Power Outage or Other Emergency

car coated in ice and freezing rain 

Ice storms, floods, natural disasters and other emergencies can strike without notice, leading to power outages and other problems. Be prepared by knowing what to do in an emergency.

To learn more, contact the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006, and speak to a Public Health Inspector.

Food Safety Tips in an Emergency/Power Outage

Consider the following food safety tips when it comes to storing food in fridges and freezers during power outages:

• Keep the refrigerator or freezer door closed at all times to maintain the temperature inside. Avoid unnecessary opening and closing of the fridge or freezer to check the food inside. Typically without power, the refrigerator section will keep foods cool for four to six hours if the door is kept closed. During a blackout, an upright or chest freezer that is completely full can keep food frozen for about two days. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for one day.

• If possible, add bags of ice to the refrigerator or freezer to keep temperatures cooler for a longer period.

• If the power is going to be off for an extended period of time, consider taking food to a freezer belonging to a friend or neighbour who has power.

• Throw out perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers that have been at temperatures above 4ºC for more than two hours.

• As soon as possible, throw out any food that is off-colour or has a bad odour.

• Contact a health care provider for information about proper storage of medication that requires refrigeration, such as insulin.

• Keep an extra supply of food in your home that doesn't need to be kept cool in a fridge or freezer. Ready-to-eat, non-perishable items such as canned ham, tuna and salmon, energy bars, and dried foods are invaluable when electricity is knocked out and it may be impossible to cook or warm up food.

Remember if using a portable generator to keep the power flowing to fridges and freezers during a blackout, be cautious. Without proper ventilation, carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust could result if the generator is placed indoors, or even used inside a garage, basement, carport, crawlspace or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area.

If you see a damaged or fallen power line, avoid it as it can pose a hazard to you and your family. Stay at least 10 metres away from the downed line and always treat it as if the line is still energized. If the downed line poses an immediate risk, call 9-1-1. You should also report any downed lines to your electricity supplier so it can be repaired. 

Additional Resources:

Power Outage Summary Report - Hydro One

Power Outages in an Ice Storm - Hydro One

Electrical Power Outage: What to Do - Government of Canada

Food Safety in an Emergency - Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Planning for and Dealing with Power Outages - Canadian Red Cross