Whether due to an extreme snowfall, an ice storm or a prolonged power outage, residents should be prepared to provide for their own needs for at least 72 hours. Consider having these items available in your home:
- A three-day supply of water (include water for pets). You need four litres of water per person per day - two for drinking and two for food preparation and hygiene.
- Several varieties of canned foods, meat and dried fruit. Include a manual can opener. Dried soups, peanut butter, nuts, granola bars, evaporated canned or powdered milk and cereal are also good choices.
- Juice or juice crystals.
- Large and medium-sized plastic garbage bags (orange or yellow make good visible signals). Large bags can also be used as ponchos, ground covers or blankets.
- Plastic or paper dishes.
- A portable radio and extra batteries.
- A first-aid kit that includes extra prescription medication, extra eyeglasses, bandages, sterile gauze pads, tape, scissors, tweezers, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide and over-the-counter pain pills.
- If needed, sufficient infant supplies including disposable diapers, disposable bottles, formula, etc.
- A three-day supply of pet food, if required
- A pocket knife (Swiss army style), a whistle and a spare set of house and car keys.
- Sleeping bags and extra blankets.
- Water purification tablets.
- A flashlight and extra batteries, candles and waterproof matches.
You may also wish to have a large bucket with a tight-fitting lid on hand to use as a toilet. Use the bucket to store other emergency tools like an axe, a folding shovel and rope.
Hazards associated with winter storms include:
- Car accidents due to slippery roadways
- Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
- Hypothermia and frostbite due to the cold weather exposure
- Being struck by falling objects such as tree limbs, wires or utility poles
- Electrocution due to downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
- Falls from heights (e.g. falls from ladders, roofs or skylights while removing snow)
- Roof collapse or property damage under weight of snow or falling trees
- Exhaustion, exposure or dehydration
- Isolation and lack of basic supplies
- Stranded motorists
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Back injuries or heart attack while shovelling snow
- Melting snow causing flooding
Most power outages last for just a few moments. In extreme cases, such as during severe weather events, outages can last for more than a day.
Think ahead and have a flashlight, electric lantern, extra batteries and candles handy. Remember to use candles with caution and use proper candle holders. Never leave burning candles unattended, as they are a potential fire hazard.
Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having an alternate heating system or sufficient heating fuel for fire places or wood burning stoves.
Stay away from fallen power lines. A hanging power line could be charged (live) and you run the risk of electrocution. Remember also that ice, branches or power lines can continue to break and fall for several hours after the end of the storm.
Customers in areas impacted by power outages may be asked to unplug or turn off all non-essential appliances, lights and equipment. This allows the system to stabilize when it is restored in cold weather.
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of trimming dead branches and assessing the trees on your property to reduce the danger of these falling onto power lines or your house during a storm.
If your home heating system fails, take these precautions:
- Remain calm - your house will remain warm for several hours.
- Avoid opening doors unnecessarily.
- During a power failure, turn off all electrical appliances.
- If you have an alternate heat source, begin using it before the house cools down. Ensure that you maintain adequate ventilation.
- Stay warm by dressing in layers and bringing out extra blankets.
- Consider closing off one room for primary heating and use.
- If you are concerned about pipes freezing--leave a tap running slightly. Opening one tap even a small amount will keep water moving through the system and will be enough to keep the water from freezing in all but extremely cold temperatures.
If your home is heated electrically you may wish to prepare for a power failure. If you consider installing a non-electric standby stove or heater choose heating units that do not depend on an electric motor, electric fan or other electrical device to function. If the standby heating unit will use the normal house oil or gas supply, make sure to have it connected and vented properly by a competent technician.
Before considering the use of an emergency home generator during a power failure, check with furnace, appliance and lighting fixture dealers or manufacturers regarding power requirements and proper operating procedures. Use caution when operating generators, assuring they are in a well-ventilated area. Do not connect your home portable generator directly to a house wiring system without the proper installation of an approved transfer switch and an inspection and approval by an electrical inspector