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DEALING WITH A BLACKOUT

- Health Unit Offers Safety Tips to Area Residents in Wake of Power Outages –

With many homes and businesses still without power after a severe ice storm hit the area over the weekend, local residents are being urged to take precautions when it comes to food, water and a lack of heat.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit warns that extended power outages can affect the safety of food stored in refrigerators and freezers. People in rural areas are urged to use caution when it comes to their well water and septic systems. And with temperatures set to drop over the next few days, area residents are also encouraged to seek out shelter from the cold for themselves and others who may be at risk.

“We want people to be safe, not sorry, when it comes to the food they eat and the water they use, especially given the ongoing electrical outages in our region,” says Shawn Telford, Manager of Environmental Health of HKPR District Health Unit. “For those individuals without heat, we encourage them to stay with someone who has power or seek relief from the cold by visiting an emergency warming centre in their community. If possible, we also ask people to check in with a loved one or an older neighbour who may be vulnerable due to lack of heat or hydro.”

Local residents are encouraged to consider the following safety tips:

Food in Refrigerators:

  • Keep the refrigerator door closed to maintain the temperature inside. Without power, the refrigerator section will keep foods cool for four to six hours if the door is kept closed.
  • If possible, add bags of ice to the refrigerator to keep temperatures cooler for a longer period.
  • If unsure whether a food item is spoiled, play it safe and throw it out. Eating unsafe foods may cause foodborne illness.
  • Throw out perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers that have been at temperatures above 4°C 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.

Food in Freezers:

  • Keep the freezer door closed to maintain the temperature inside. Without power, an upright or chest freezer that is completely full will keep food frozen for about two days. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for one day. Avoid opening and closing the freezer to check the food inside.
  • If possible, add bags of ice to the freezer to help keep the temperatures cooler for a longer period of time.
  • 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.
  • Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat.

Private Well Water
Most homes that use well water rely on an electrical pump to move the water into the home. During a power outage, the pump will be off and there will be no water available. Remember that some homes have treatment systems for their well water that use electricity (e.g. Ultraviolet light). When power is restored to the pump, ensure that the treatment system is working.
Private Septic Systems
Some on-site septic systems use pumps that run on electricity. The pumps move waste through the system and into the leaching bed or treatment unit. If you are still using water in your home, remember that septic and pump tanks will continue to fill with waste water. If the tanks get too full, the effluent could back up into the home. Water use should be limited until the power is restored.
Staying Warm

  • If you have been without electricity for some time and cannot properly heat your home, make arrangements to stay with a loved one or friend who does have power. You can also check with your local municipality about accessing a warming station set up in your community.
  • Check to ensure that vulnerable individuals such as an older relative or neighbour are alright, particularly if the heat and hydro has been off for some time.

For more information, contact a Public Health Inspector in your local Health Unit office or visit www.hkpr.on.ca .

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For media inquiries, contact:
Shawn Telford, Manager, Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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