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Prepare to stay safe and informed during an outage

Image of a Red Cross disaster kit
Emergency kits are available for purchase from organizations like the Canadian Red Cross, but you can also easily put one together yourself. Check them twice a year and replace expired supplies, including food, batteries, and medicines. Many items in the kit will expire in three to five years.

Winter weather can mean power outages in B.C.

The winter season brings challenges to the different regions of B.C. and although winter weather looks different around the province, one unpredictable part of winter can happen to anyone: power outages.

Whether it's the windstorms in the province's southern region, or heavy snowfall in the north, it's important to take steps so you and your family are prepared to stay safe for a few days without power. Taking these precautions means that you'll not only be safe during an outage, but you'll be more comfortable too.

And if you take the time to get prepared for storm season, you'll be better prepared in the event of a major disaster, such as an earthquake.

The BC Government actively monitors the risk of natural disasters such as wildfires or earthquakes in B.C.. Understanding different situations and what you can do to stay safe and informed will help you prepare for a disaster.

Be knowledgeable about safety during an outage or a storm

A power outage can be more than just an inconvenience, especially when it's caused by extreme weather. You can be faced with different safety issues during large or extended outages.

Fallen power lines may not be sparking, smoking or buzzing like they are in the movies; always stay back and assume the lines are live with electricity. Stay back at least 10 metres, or 33 feet, which is about the length of a city bus. Call 911 to report the location of the wire and keep other people away from the line.

To stay safe at home, use home generators and portable cooking devices like camp stoves or barbeques with caution. They can help keep your family comfortable, but you could be facing serious health risks if appliances or equipment are used incorrectly. Follow the manufacturers' instructions and check with a qualified electrician or electrical inspector if you have questions.

  • Always use equipment such as generators and barbecues outdoors — this includes garages, carports and other enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) can be released when these items are used indoors, putting you at risk. If you feel lightheaded or nauseated while using these devices, get fresh air and seek medical attention immediately
  • Use a CO monitor — choose a battery-powered model and place it inside your home.

Emergency kits keep you ready for prolonged emergencies

During an outage, our crews work hard to restore power to our customers. A large-scale outage or a huge storm event might mean several days before we're able to get you up and running. Other services that you rely on, such as phones and running water, might be affected as well.

Take the time to think about the systems in your home, and which ones depend on electricity.

Experts at Emergency Preparedness BC, the Red Cross and other organizations strongly encourage everyone to be prepared for at least three days on your own.

Prepare to take care of yourself and your family for 72 hours; an emergency kit will provide the necessities and come in handy if you need to leave your home.

Kits are available for purchase from organizations like the Canadian Red Cross, but you can also easily put one together yourself. Check them twice a year and replace expired supplies, including food, batteries, and medicines.

Many items in the kit will expire in three to five years. Keep items in their packages so you can easily find the expiration date. Throw out anything that appears old and weathered. You can use the daylight savings time change as a reminder to check your kit.

Here's what you should include, and a few tips to consider when you're assembling your kit:

What to consider

  • Make the kit as portable as possible and easy to carry. Large packpacks or even plastic tote bins work well.
  • Keep your kit easy to find and easy to store in your home. Keep it in a central location that will be easily accessible in the dark and in the event of an earthquake. For example, at the back of a basement closet isn't the best place.
  • Portion amounts for everyone in your home, and ensure you have the recommended amounts per person. Consider labelling baggies or packages so it's easy to check and divide up.

Pack the essentials

Consumables

  • Water: Six litres of water per person. Consider keeping some water frozen in containers in your freezer. Not only will it make your freezer run more efficiently, you can use it to help keep food cool if the power goes out - and you can use it for drinking if other stocks run out.
  • Food: cans, energy bars, dried foods that won't spoil. You can include emergency rations like those found in prepared emergency kits, or a selection of canned and dried goods that can be eaten without cooking — such as canned tuna, granola bars, and energy bars.
  • Can opener: make sure it's the manual, old-fashioned kind.

Special needs items

  • A well-stocked first aid kit and medications: prescriptions and over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. Check the storage guidelines for items that may need to stay dry or be replaced more often.
  • Candles and matches: store in a waterproof container.
  • Flashlight: hand-crank model or pack extra batteries.
  • Radio: hand-crank model or pack extra batteries.
  • Multi-function tool or at least a sturdy folding knife.

Documents

  • Printed and laminated copy of your emergency plan: evacuation routes, emergency shelter locations, and contact information.
  • Personal documents: Photocopies of personal documents such as passports, drivers licenses, and your home insurance information. Consider printed copies of contact info for out-of-town family and friends that you may need to contact after a disaster when you don't have access to your computer.

Consider plenty of extras depending on your needs

  • Extra clothes and footwear for each family member.
  • Sleeping bags or warm blankets for each family member.
  • A whistle will help you attract attention.
  • Cash: include small bills as debit machines and ATMs may not be working.
  • Garbage bags.
  • Toilet paper and other personal care supplies, such as diapers if you have infants.
  • Safety gloves
  • Basic tools: hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, duct tape, work gloves
  • Camp stove: remember to include a couple of canisters of fuel.
  • Water: two additional litres of water per person, per day,for cooking and cleaning.
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes.
  • Contact lenses and glasses: an old pair of frames are great to throw in.
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Batteries for flashlights and any other devices. You can even get portable battery packs for your mobile phone to give you extra talk time if the power is out and you can't charge your device.
  • If you have kids, consider other items you may need, such as books, stuffed animals or small travel games that don't require power or batteries.

Remember that an emergency kit doesn't just have to be for the home; emergencies can happen while you're in the car or at the office. Tailor your kits to fit your needs and your space. Experts recommend storing a kit at home, in the trunk of your car, and in the office.

Stay informed if the power goes out

We have several ways for you to stay up to date with the latest information during an outage or an emergency. Familiarize yourself with a few ways to communicate as options might be limited during an emergency.

Outage website — We update our website with current information as our crews investigate outages. View outage information in a list or a map. You can also search your address to see the outages affecting you. It's optimized for mobile devices, so it's a great option when there's an outage.

POWERON — Call 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) or *49376 on your mobile phone to report an outage or a fallen power line. If you have valuable information, such as seeing a tree on wire or hearing a loud noise, it might be able to help our crews with restoration efforts if you call to report it. You can also log in to your BC Hydro account to report an outage online.

Social media — Follow along on our social media channels for updates during outages and emergencies. We'll post the latest information and updates that can help keep you safe and informed.

  • Twitter @bchydro. Follow along with or without an account
  • Facebook. Like our page or check back to see the latest updates during major storms, such as the windstorm from late August 2015.

Having fun will help pass the time

An outage or emergency might mean sitting around and waiting without any of the luxuries that we're used to — but that doesn't mean it has to be boring. A not-so-ideal situation can be made into great family time with a little creativity and preparation.

Non-electronic toys still work during an outage. Get the creativity flowing by building with LEGO. Dig out board games sitting in the back of the closet.

Read a book as a family. Pick one together and take turns reading — don't get the pages too close to the candles.

Get outside if it's safe to do so. Cabin fever isn't fun at the best of times and can leave you feeling impatient and irritable. Stretch your legs on a stroll around the neighbourhood.

Make a camp site. Only living room furniture and sheets required.