Power Outage: Some Helpful Tips

Recently BC Hydro posted this information in their newsletter; in light of the devastation on the Eastern Coast of US it seems like a good idea to share this:

In a power outage, knowledge is power.

  • Develop a preparedness plan and share it with your family.
  • Make a list of local emergency contact numbers.
  • Purchase or prepare an emergency kit and store it in an easy-to-find location.

What to do during an outage

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Tune into your local radio station for storm and power outage updates.
  4. Turn off all appliances, including home computers and peripherals, especially those that generate heat. This helps prevent hazards or damage when service is restored.
  5. 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.

Be prepared

  • Develop a preparedness plan and share it with your family. Be sure everyone knows what to expect and what to do. Have a contingency plan in case power is out for a longer period.
  • Make a list of local emergency contact numbers (fire, police, ambulance, etc.). Include 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) for reporting an outage.
  • Prepare an emergency kit and store it in an easy-to find location. Check regularly to make sure the kit is well stocked and that all equipment is in good working order.
  • Use surge protectors to protect sensitive electrical equipment such as computers, DVD players and TVs.
  • Include a battery operated flashlight in your emergency kit to avoid using candles – they can be a fire hazard.

Safety first

Never go near or touch a fallen power line. Always assume that a line or anything it is in contact with, is energized. 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.

What should be in an emergency kit?

Prepare for the first 72 hours! Stock your emergency kit with these essentials:

  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water (2 litres per person per day)
  • Supplies for people with special needs
  • Copy of your preparedness plan
  • Battery or crank operated clock and radio
  • Corded telephone
  • Non-perishable, ready-to-eat foods
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Games, cards and books to keep everyone busy

You may need additional supplies for lengthy outages.

Remember to pull out your emergency kit once a year and make sure it still fits the needs of your household. Replace batteries with fresh ones.

More information

Portable generator safety precautions

Home generators can be useful during a power outage but they can also be very dangerous if they are not used properly. Always follow all manufacturers’ instructions and contact a qualified electrician or electrical inspector if you have questions.

1. Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odourless gas in the engine exhaust. You may not smell the exhaust but could still be exposed to CO.

  • Never use a portable generator indoors, including inside a garage or other enclosed or partially enclosed area.
  • Only operate portable generators outdoors and at a location where the exhaust cannot enter into your home or other buildings through doors or windows.
  • If you start to feel dizzy, nausea, a headache or tired while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.
  • Use a battery operated CO detector at home. This is also advisable for homes that have a natural gas fired forced air heating system.

2. Prevent electric shock and electrocution

Serious accidents or fire can result when a home generator is improperly connected to an existing house wiring system. Generators that are not isolated can feed back into the BC Hydro electrical grid and possibly electrocute anyone coming into contact with them, including neighbours and BC Hydro or contractor workers.

  • It is not permissible to connect a home portable or stationary generator directly to a house wiring system without the proper installation of a CSA-approved transfer switch. An electrical permit is required for the installation and the transfer switch and generator must be inspected and approved by the local electrical inspector. For more information on the correct way to connect your generator and to obtain a permit, please call your electrical contractor or the electrical inspector in your area.
  • Never plug a portable generator into a regular household electrical outlet. This can also cause back-feeding to the BC Hydro electrical grid, which is a serious electrical danger to your neighbours and utility workers.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a properly sized CSA-approved 3-pronged extension cord in good condition.
  • Use a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) portable extension cord if using the portable generator to power electrical tools for outdoor use.
  • Keep the generator dry and protected from rain and snow.

3. Prevent fire

Improper fuel handling, improperly installed or overheated generators are fire hazards.

  • Do not store fuel in the home. Fuels should be stored in properly labelled and vented fuel storage containers in a well-ventilated building or storage shed away from living areas. Do not store fuel near the generator or other fuel-burning or heat-producing appliance.
  • Shut down the generator and allow it to cool before refuelling.
  • Do not overload the generator.

Electrical permits

To obtain information on electrical permits, please contact the BC Safety Authority.

Cooking safety precautions

Portable stoves, lamps and other camping equipment can be useful, but they should be stored, along with their fuels, in a shed or garage that is separated from the house. Liquid fuels give off combustible vapours and should be kept outside the house at all times. Outdoor and charcoal barbecues should never be used indoors. They are a fire and safety hazard and can emit deadly carbon monoxide.

Forest fire health and safety tips

There are specific risks associated with forest fires, including exposure to smoke, food safety and water quality.

Please see Interior Health’s Forest Fire Health Information section for details on these risks and how to deal with them.

How to avoid unexpectedly high winter energy bills

Start with draftproofing and managing your thermostat

It’s not surprising that our homes use more energy in the winter. Energy bills can double or triple as heat is turned up and lights and electronics are on longer.

Space heating alone can account for 40 to 50 per cent of our electricity bills, so although it can be tempting to reach for the thermostat, it can be costly. Before you fight the winter blues by cranking up the heat, make sure your home is ready to make the most of that heat.

See below for details on these three key ways to winterize your home:

Draftproofing: a low-cost way to keep heat in

One of the easiest ways to avoid extra heating costs is to keep heat in your home by preventing it from slipping around doors and windows.

Draftproofing your home can reduce your heat loss by 10 per cent. And since it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to do, it can make sense to start there.

  • Holes or cracks around doors and windows can let heat out, let cold air in, and keep your furnace working overtime.
  • Strips of light around your weatherstripping or caulking can indicate costly cracks or holes.
  • Caulking or other expandable material can be used to seal the spaces between interior joints, around non-opening windows, and in spaces around water pipes and vents.
  • Materials like weatherstripping or caulking are available at hardware stores and are simple to install. But you can also hire a professional to do the work.

Get more draftproofing tips

Insulation: new options can mean energy savings

Even if your home doesn’t have visible cracks or leaks, you can still be losing heat if you have inefficient insulation, particularly if you have an older home.

If your home is at least 10 years old, your insulation may have sagged or settled over time, leaving gaps and seams. Consider upgrading your insulation to newer options that save energy.

  • Start in areas that lose the most heat, such as attics, basements, and crawlspaces. A well-insulated attic can reduce year-round energy use by 20-60%.
  • Choose newer spray foam insulation in spaces where you don’t want to take down interior walls.
  • Install insulation on the underside of the floor in an unheated or vented crawlspace. Fiberglass batts or blankets are usually easiest.
  • Upgrade your insulation when you’re undergoing other renovations, such as replacing a roof or upgrading a basement. You’ll save time and it’s a low cost way to add energy efficiency to your project.

Learn more about insulation and saving energy

Keep your thermostat (and your bill) down

If it isn’t an option to upgrade your insulation or you’ve made all the changes that you can, sometimes it just comes down to how you manage your thermostat.

Programmable thermostats give you the flexibility to be effective with your heat. Here are a few tips:

  • Turn the heat down by just two degrees: it can reduce your home heating costs by 5%.
  • Program your thermostat to set back the temperature by five degrees for eight hours every night and save approximately 10% on your heating bill.
  • Set the thermostat to 16°C at night or when you’re away. When you’re home, most people are comfortable at around 20 to 21°C.
  • Get cozy: wearing sweaters, slippers and using a blanket may make it easier to adjust to lower temperatures instead of turning up the heat.

Learn more about managing your thermostat effectively

See all our heating tips

How to avoid, or investigate, a high winter bill

No matter how careful you are, there’s a good chance that you’ll use more electricity during the winter months, especially if you have electric heat.

Homes with gas heating also use more during the winter — shorter days mean our lights are on longer, we use electronics and appliances longer and more often.

During the winter months, our customer team usually receives twice as many calls about high bills than during the rest of the year. It’s best to be prepared for the possibility that you might see higher than usual bills.

Three easy steps can help you understand a higher bill and avoid high bills down the road:

  1. Compare your usage — view your consumption, not just the cost, to see if it has increased
  2. Find opportunities to save — if your consumption is higher, look for ways to reduce it
  3. Track your progress — use your online account to track your savings and electricity usage

It’s important to remember that higher bills can be due to a number of different reasons — and our customer team investigates each possibility.

As you can see the numbers and links are quite specific to BC, however, the general message of being prepared and how to be prepared can apply to all.  It is an important thing for all of us to think about and be ready for.

Today’s “stone” is Day 312   be prepared, stay safe, make changes for the better

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