The More You Know, the Safer You’ll Be
Learn what to do – and what not to do – during an outage.
Identifying the Problem
Before reporting an outage, check these things at your home.
Is Only a Part of Your House Without Power?
Short circuits can occur when a circuit is overloaded or damaged.
- Unplug any appliances that you suspect may have caused an overload.
- Reset Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) circuits – GFI outlets are designed to shut off electricity to prevent electrical shock.
- Check your electrical panel for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses. Learn how to safely reset breakers.
- Check your electric stove, dryer or any other appliance with 240-volt wiring to see if they have power. If it does have power, there is a problem with your wiring and you should contact a qualified electrician.
- If you have done all of the above and your power is still out, call Toronto Hydro at 416.542.8000.
Is the Outage Limited to Your Home?
Many factors can interrupt power to your home.
- If your neighbours have power, check if your main circuit breaker (usually located at the top of the rest of the breakers in your panel, it turns off/on all the breakers on the panel at once) has tripped.
- Flip it firmly to “off”, then back “on” again.
- If power still isn’t on, report the outage to 416.542.8000.
Is the Whole Neighbourhood Affected?
Report the outage immediately to 416.542.8000.
- Keep one light on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
- Unplug appliances and electronics and turn thermostats down to a minimum to protect them from power surges when the power returns.
- Check local media outlets for news, updates and instructions from authorities, or ask family and friends to get updates for you.
- Follow us on Twitter
- Review our Safety Tips.
Outage Safety Tips
Learn what to do and what not to do during an outage.
Dos and Don’ts
- Report downed power lines – and stay well away.
- Secure windows and doors as well as outdoor furniture and equipment.
- Park vehicles in protected areas, if possible.
- Unplug appliances and electronics, and turn thermostats down to a minimum to protect them from power surges when power is restored.
- Keep a few taps slightly open to prevent pipes from freezing.
- Limit cell phone use to conserve battery life.
- Check on friends and neighbours – and offer help if they need it.
- Keep generators outdoors, well away from windows and doors.
- Use BBQs, propane heaters or portable generators indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, covered porches and sheds – they generate carbon monoxide gas, which can be fatal.
- Use a gas stove as a source of heat.
- Open your fridge or freezer more than necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for up to 48 hours as long as the doors stay closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. Do not place frozen food outside even in winter.
- Go near areas of standing water, like a flooded basement or building.
- Leave candles unattended. Whenever possible, use a flashlight.
- Touch or go near a downed line – they can cause injury or death.
- Only use portable generators outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Never use generators in a garage or shed.
- Keep generators well away from open windows and doors.
- If you feel dizzy, nauseous, drowsy or experience shortness of breath while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.
- Never connect a generator directly to your home’s wiring – plug appliances directly into the generator’s outlet.
- Use a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for grounding the generator.
- During an outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors shut as much as possible.
- Pack perishable foods like milk, dairy products, meats, fish, eggs and leftovers into a cooler with ice.
- Discard any thawed food that has a temperature over 4°C for more than two hours. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Do not enter a flooded basement unless you are sure the power is disconnected.
- If the basement is flooded and your power is on, call 416.542.8000 to disconnect power.
- Never unplug or disconnect an appliance if you have to stand in water, or even on a damp floor, to do it.
- Do not use flooded appliances, outlets, switches or breaker panels until they have been checked and cleaned by a qualified electrician.
- Keep cords and generators safely out of water.
If You Need to Evacuate
Without power, winter temperatures can freeze pipes and make it impossible to live safely at home. Here’s how to protect your plumbing system before you leave.
- Switch off your home’s main breaker.
- Turn off the water main where it enters the house. Protect the meter, valve and inlet pipe with blankets or insulation material.
- Starting on the top floor of your home, open all taps and flush toilets to drain the water from your plumbing system.
- Once drained, reopen the water main to just a trickle and only open the cold tap on the lowest fixture (sink) OR open the drain valve in the basement and close all taps.
- Find out if you need to drain your hot water tank as not all tanks are the same (some gas water heaters will work in a power outage). If you do need to drain your hot water tank, do so by running a hose from the drain valve to the drain.
What to do After an Outage
How to get your home back to normal when the power is restored.
- Report downed power lines to 416.542.8000 and stay well away.
- Report non-emergency damaged trees or fallen branches on city-owned property to 311.
- If the tree is on your property and is near a power line, you should hire a qualified arborist who is licenced to work on trees near power lines.
- Gradually turn essential appliances back on, then wait 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting electronics to give your electrical system a chance to stabilize.
- Check the basement for flooding, but do not go near standing water.
- Check your fridge and freezer and discard any food that has been spoiled.
- Make sure the hot water heater is full before turning on the power to it, otherwise it could cause damage to the heating elements.
- Reset electric clocks, automatic timers and alarms.
- Restock your emergency kit so it’s ready if needed again.
How to Safely Reset Breakers
If the outage is limited to your home, you may have tripped a breaker.
- Unplug any appliances that you suspect may have caused the overload.
- Using a flashlight, open your electrical panel
- You’ll know a breaker is “tripped” when the switch is halfway between the “off” and “on” position.
- Flip the breaker firmly to “off” then back “on.”
- If the breaker trips again, do not reset it as this may indicate a more serious problem. Contact a qualified electrician.
- If your home still uses fuses instead of breakers, replace blown fuses if needed.
Seasonal Outage Tips
Winter storms and summer heat waves affect your home in different ways. Learn how to stay safe in either case.
Winter Outage Tips
- Never use BBQs, propane heaters or portable generators indoors. They generate carbon monoxide, which can be fatal.
- Let taps drip slightly to prevent water pipes from freezing.
- To keep warm, wear a hat and dress in loose layers of clothing, rather than one layer of heavy clothing.
- Gather in a central room where there is an alternative heat source such as a working fireplace.
- During the day, open your blinds to let the sun warm your home.
- At night, cover windows with drapes or blankets to prevent heat from escaping.
- Never leave candles unattended and keep children and pets well away.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages – alcohol can increase the loss of body heat and risk of hypothermia.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite. If you detect symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
- If your home is too cold to stay, find a warming shelter near you.
Summer Outage Tips
- Move to the lowest level of your home, as hot air rises.
- Pack perishable food into a cooler packed with ice.
- Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing.
- Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as they can dehydrate.
- During the day, go to an air-conditioned building such as a library or shopping mall, or find a cooling shelter near you.
- Remember to provide pets with plenty of water.
- Close drapes and blinds on the sunny side of your home.
- Reduce strenuous activities to avoid exhaustion.
- Have an outdoor cookout. Invite neighbours and pool together food that won’t keep.