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Power outages don’t just happen in the winter. Summer storms, extreme heat, and air conditioners running on overdrive can lead to blackouts in the summer months, too. When the power goes out during a heat wave, the temperature inside your house can rise pretty quickly. Learn what to do before, during, and after a summertime power outage to stay safe and cool until the power comes back on.

How to get prepared before the power goes out

While it’s rarely possible to predict a blackout, here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re prepared if the power does go out:

  • Stock your emergency kit. You should always have access to at least three days’ worth of supplies for each member of your household (including pets). Your emergency kit should include non-perishable food; candles, matches, and a lighter; bottled water; a flashlight and batteries; and anything else you may need if you’re stuck without electricity. Be sure to store your emergency kit where you can easily track it down in the dark.
  • Go easy on the AC. During a heat wave, your first instinct might be to crank up the air conditioning and leave it running — but it’s worth a reminder that too much pressure on the electrical grid can lead to a blackout. Use your AC in moderation, especially on the hottest days of the year, and consider other options for keeping your house cool. You can also conserve energy by turning the temperature up a couple of degrees when you leave the house.
  • Keep your phone charged. It’s always a good idea to keep your phone charged in case of an emergency. When the power goes out, there’s no telling when it will come back on — or when you’ll get to give your phone its next boost.

What to do during the power outage

As soon as the power goes out, take a look around and try to see if your neighbours’ power is out, too. If their lights are still on, check to see if there’s a problem with your breaker panel or fuse box — and if you can’t safely locate and repair the issue yourself, call your hydro company or a registered electrician. If you notice that all of the lights on your street are out, contact your hydro company.

Keep these tips in mind while you wait for the power to come back on:

  • Unplug your appliances. Unplug as many appliances as possible in case there’s a surge when the power comes back on.
  • Keep your windows and doors closed. If the air outside is hotter than the air inside, try to keep your windows and doors closed. If you need to leave the house, open and close the door as quickly as possible.
  • Cover your windows. Try your best to keep the sunlight out, as it can heat things up pretty quickly. If one of your windows doesn’t have blinds or curtains you can close, consider covering it with a sheet or blanket.
  • Leave your freezer and fridge doors closed. If it’s hot outside, consider heading to the corner store and picking up a few bags of ice as soon as possible. You can put the ice bags inside your fridge and freezer to keep them cool.
  • Find an air-conditioned space to hang out in. Consider heading out to your local shopping mall or movie theatre for a break from the heat.
  • Stay hydrated. Be sure everyone in your household (including pets) drinks plenty of water — but avoid ice-cold water when you’re really feeling the heat, as it’s believed to lead to some negative side effects.
  • If you or someone in your household is showing signs of heat stroke, call 911. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness or cramps, a rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing.

What to do after the power comes back on

After the power comes back on, consider the following:

  • Don’t put your air conditioner into overdrive. If the power outage was caused by an overloaded grid, chances are it’ll happen again if everyone runs to turn their AC back on at the same time. Consider using a fan to get the air circulating first, and then set your air conditioner only a degree or two cooler than it is in your home so it doesn’t run for too long at once.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Refrigerated and frozen food is likely safe to eat if the power was out for less than four hours and the fridge or freezer door was left closed (or if it was hooked up to a generator). But if perishable foods like meat, seafood, milk, or leftovers have been exposed to temperatures higher than 5°C for longer than two hours, it’s best to toss them.
  • Inspect and repair. Take some time to inspect your home for any damage that might have occurred while the power was out, especially if there was a storm. Look for damage to your roof, flooding in your basement, and downed trees or power lines around your property. Before you make any repairs, contact your insurance broker, as your repairs (and the additional living expenses you incur if you need to stay somewhere else in the meantime) could be covered by your home insurance policy.

To learn how your home insurance policy could protect you in the event of a summer storm or power outage, contact your licensed insurance broker today.


Want to help your neighbours keep cool during the next summer power outage, too? Share these tips on Facebook or Twitter.