Be prepared to be prepared for outages

Image of Power Line Technician repairing downed line

In a power outage, knowledge is power

Outages can happen at any time and it’s important to be prepared, just in case. Knowing what to do before, during and after a power outage is important for your safety and the safety of your family.

Before an outage

Emergencies can lead to the loss of services that we've become accustomed to, including electricity. The best way to be safe is to be prepared. Plan for an outage by taking these simple actions:

  • Ensure BC Hydro has your current phone number so we can quickly identify your account, if you call during an outage. To update your account online, log into MyHydro. Select My Profile, and then Personal Information to change your personal information. You can also phone 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376).
  • Develop an emergency preparedness plan and share it with everyone in your household.
  • Check your flashlights and radios regularly to make sure they are in working order.
  • Protect sensitive electrical equipment (computers, DVD players, televisions, etc.) by using surge protectors.
  • Develop a list of important phone numbers and program them into your cell phone or post near your home phone. Include numbers for police, fire, poison control centre and include BC Hydro to report and outage—1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) or *Hydro (*49367) from your mobile device.
  • Contact your regional health authority if you or someone you know has special needs during an outage (e.g., is dependent upon electronic life-support systems). If you rely on life-sustaining equipment, be prepared to be self-reliant by having adequate backup in the event of a power outage. If power is out for a longer period, it’s important to have a contingency plan, such as moving to the home of a family member or friend in an area with power.

What should be in an emergency kit?

It won’t take long to put together a basic emergency kit with all the supplies you might need if you experience a power outage. A kit should have enough supplies to last the first 72 hours. It’s important to check kits twice a year to replace expired supplies, including food, batteries, and medicines. Remember that you may need additional supplies for lengthy outages. Stock your emergency kit with these essentials:

  • Flashlight(s)
  • Battery-powered clock and radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Corded telephone
  • First aid kit, including extra prescription medicine if needed
  • Non-perishable and ready-to-eat foods
  • Bottled water: three-day supply (2 litres per person per day)
  • Manual can opener
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Supplies for those with special needs
  • Games, cards and books to entertain everyone
  • Supplies for your pet
  • Extra keys for your house and car
  • Some extra cash
  • Copy of your preparedness plan

What to do during an outage

  • Check whether the power failure is limited to your home. If your neighbour's power is still on, check your circuit breaker panel or fuse box.
  • Call BC Hydro at 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) or *HYDRO (*49376) on your cell phone. Tell us about the outage so we can send the right crews and equipment to the right location.
  • Visit on your mobile device for the most up-to-date outage information. Listen to local news radio stations to check for updates.
  • Turn off all appliances, including home computers, especially those that generate heat. This helps prevent hazards or damage when service is restored.
  •  Turn off all lights except one inside your home and one outside. The inside light lets you know and the outside light lets BC Hydro crews know, when the power is back on.
  • Help children remain calm. How you react to a power outage gives children clues on how to act. When talking with children about an outage, be sure to present a realistic picture about what has happened and the expected outcome. Encourage children to participate in games, arts, crafts and reading.
  • Anticipate traffic delays—Use extreme caution when driving. Intersections should be treated as four-way stops when traffic lights are out.

Be safe around electricity

Never go near or touch a fallen power line. Always assume that a line or anything it is in contact with is energized, even if it’s not smoking, sparking or making a buzzing sound. Stay at least ten metres (33 feet) away at all times and do not attempt to remove debris surrounding the line. If you see a fallen power line, report the exact location to 1 888 POWERON. See our visual guide to fallen power lines.

After an outage

It’s important to remember that occasionally, after restoration, even after your power has come back on, a momentary outage may occur as part of the restoration effort. Try to give the system a chance to stabilize by only turning on the most essential appliances first, wait 10 to 15 minutes, and then reconnect the others.

  • Check to make sure your refrigerator and freezer are back on. Check all frozen foods to determine the extent of thawing and reference your freezer guide to determine whether food can be safely refrozen. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Remember to reset your clocks, automatic timers, and alarms.
  • Restock your emergency cupboard, so the supplies will be there when they are needed again.
  • Pull out your emergency kit once a year and make sure it still fits the needs of your household. Replace batteries with fresh ones.