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Posted: November 27, 2017

Dealing with a Lengthy Power Outage

  • Do not panic.  Even in cold weather a building with closed doors and windows will retain some heat for several hours.
  • Conserve heat by keeping outside doors closed, curtains drawn unless the sun is shining in, and all interior doors closed.
  • Dress warmly and in layers.
  • Stay inside.
Protect against hypothermia:
Hypothermia is a drop in deep body temperature than can kill a person if not detected and treated promptly.  Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to this condition and precautions must be taken to protect them.
Symptoms include pale and waxy skin, chills, slow and slurred speech, slow breathing, confusion and drowsiness.
These tips can help prevent hypothermia:
  • wear several layers of loose clothing;
  • keep clothing dry;
  • select clothing made from wool, down, or quilted synthetic materials;
  • sleep with hot water bottles, extra blankets and quilts;
  • make sure that any medications that you are taking are not affecting your body temperature;
  • if you live alone, have someone you know look in on you regularly.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has been affected by hypothermia, don't take any chances.  Call for emergency medical assistance immediately.
If your water system is powered by an electric pump it will be out of service during a power outage, so store several litres of boiled water in plastic or clean glass containers.
Keep 5 to 10 litres of antifreeze on hand to protect plumbing fixtures from freezing in cold weather.
Shut off inlet, open all taps and flush toilets.  Then add a small amount of antifreeze to all sinks and toilets.
Keep an emergency supply of non-perishable foods that do not require cooking, along with a manual can opener.
Today's refrigerators and freezers are insulated well enough to keep foods cold for many hours if the power goes out.  Here are some tips to consider:
  • A fully-packed freezer will stay cold longer than one half-full.  If the freezer is kept closed, food should stay frozen for 24 to 48 hours.  If the freezer is not full, fill it with plastic ice packs.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • Adjust your freezer to a colder setting during storm seasons.
  • Defrost your freezer periodically.  This ensures more efficient operation.
  • Throw a blanket or quilt over the refrigerator to help insulate it.  Be careful not to cover the vents or motor area.

Standby Generators:

Some customers prepare for the possibility of outages by installing a standby electric generator to keep appliances or life-support devices running until Manitoba Hydro can restore service. Many who run businesses and farm operations also understand that a standby or portable generator can help maintain business as usual during inclement weather. Review the operation manual and start your generator periodically to ensure it is in good running condition if there is a power outage.

If an outage does occur:
  • Wait 3 to 10 minutes to check if the utility re-closer system restores power before starting the generator.
  • The output cables of a standby generator can be deadly, so treat them with respect. Do not allow a child or unqualified person to operate or connect the generator to any circuits.
  • Use the generator only in a well-ventilated area. Operating it in the garage, house, or any enclosed building may lead to overheating – and more seriously, a build-up of carbon monoxide gas.
  • Because the power quality from a portable generator can be unpredictable, install a surge protector in the electrical panel. This helps protect sensitive equipment such as computers against serious damage.
  • Note that stored fuel creates a fire/explosion hazard. Under the National Fire Code, only 5 litres may be stored in a residential dwelling, or 30 litres in a garage/shed.

If you don’t have a standby generator but plan to install one, have a qualified electrician do the work. Ensure that your generator package includes a transfer switch that isolates the generator from the main power grid. Do not do this work yourself. Please consider both your safety and the safety of any Hydro crews working on the lines.

Protect electronic equipment:

Microwave ovens, VCRs, answering machines and computers are extremely sensitive to even the slightest voltage change. It is recommended to protect your electronic equipment with surge suppressors and other protective devices.

You can buy suppressors for each electronic device you own, or have an electrician install a surge protector in your electric service-entrance panel (your main fuse box or circuit breaker panel).

Purchase clock radios with battery backup, and electronic devices with built-in protection.


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