What to do during an outage

How to identify the problem and stay safe.

We’re experiencing stronger and more frequent storms, heavier rainfalls and severe temperatures. This extreme weather often results in outages, which could last anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days. To help you and your loved ones stay safe and comfortable, we’ve put together the following information.

Identifying the problem

Before reporting an outage, consider the following:

Is only a part of your house without power?

If only a part of your home is without power, you might have an internal electrical issue. Unplug any appliances that might be overloaded, reset the Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) switch and check your electrical panel for any tripped breakers.

If you have done all of the above and your power is still out, report your outage through our online form or by calling 416-542-8000.

Is the outage limited to your home?

If your neighbours have power, your main circuit breaker may have tripped. You’ll know it tripped when the switch is halfway between the “off” and “on” position.

This is how you safely reset it:

  1. Unplug any appliance that you suspect may have caused the overload.
  2. Using a flashlight, open your electrical panel.
  3. Flip it firmly to “off”, then back “on” again.

If the breaker trips again, don't reset it. This may indicate a more serious problem and you should contact a qualified electrician.

If your home still uses fuses instead of breakers, replace the blown fuse.

Is the whole neighbourhood affected?

If everyone on your street is without power, report your neighbourhood outage online or by calling 416-542-8000.

Staying safe during an outage

Learn what to do and what not to do during an outage.

What to do

  • Secure windows, doors and outdoor furniture and equipment
  • Use a flashlight whenever possible. If using candles, never leave them unattended
  • Unplug appliances and electronics, and turn thermostats down to a minimum to protect them from power surges when power is restored
  • Pack perishable foods like milk, dairy products, meats, fish, eggs and leftovers into a cooler with ice
  • Discard any thawed food that has been at a temperature over 4°C for more than two hours. When in doubt, throw it out
  • Check on friends and neighbours, and offer help if they need it
  • Limit cell phone use to conserve battery life
  • Keep a few taps slightly open to prevent pipes from freezing
  • Keep generators outdoors, well away from windows and doors

What not to do

  • Don't use BBQs, propane heaters or portable generators indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, covered porches and sheds. These appliances generate carbon monoxide gas, which can be fatal
  • Don't use a gas stove as a source of heat
  • Don't open your fridge or freezer more than necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for up to 48 hours as long as the door stays closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours
  • Don't go near areas of standing water, such as a flooded basement or buildings
  • Don't touch or go near downed powerlines. Stay back at least 10 metres (the length of a school bus) and report immediately to us at 416-542-8000

Generator safety

  • Only use portable generators outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Keep generators well away from open windows and doors
  • 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
  • If you feel dizzy, nauseous, drowsy or experience shortness of breath while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention

Flood safety

  • Don't enter a flooded basement unless you're sure the power is disconnected
  • If the basement is flooded and your power is on, call us at 416-542-8000 to disconnect power
  • Never unplug or disconnect an appliance if you have to stand in water to do it. This includes damp floors
  • Don't 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

Evacuation safety

Without power, winter temperatures can freeze pipes and make it challenging to stay at home. Here’s how to protect your plumbing system before you leave.

The following instructions are considered technical. If in doubt, consult a licensed plumber.

  • 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

After an outage

  • Report damaged trees or fallen branches that are on city-owned property to 311
  • If the tree is on your property and near a powerline, hire a licensed arborist
  • Check the basement for flooding. Don’t go near standing water
  • Gradually turn essential appliances back on. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting electronics to give your electrical system a chance to stabilize
  • Make sure the hot water heater is full before turning it on. Otherwise, it could cause damage to the heating elements
  • Reset electric clocks, automatic timers and alarms
  • Restock your emergency kit