Power failure

In Québec, bad weather often causes power failures. When a power failure lasts, certain risks to health and safety increase, such as the risk of fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and food poisoning.

You can take certain steps to limit the risks in the event of a power failure:

Be prepared

Have an emergency kit on hand.

If your life or that of a relative depends on a life-support apparatus that operates electrically, have an emergency power source available or plan to go to the home of a family member or friend if necessary.

Inspect your heating system

Here are some prevention tips:

  • Have your heating system inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician once a year.
  • If you have a backup heating system, ensure that it meets safety standards and that it is installed in accordance with manufacturer instructions and the rules in force.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector if you plan on using a combustion heating system (for example, a gas-fuelled heater or a wood fireplace).
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Take action during a power failure

Follow these instructions:

  • Avoid frequent opening of the refrigerator or freezer door, to ensure that the food lasts longer.
  • Sort the food (in French only) in case of a prolonged power failure.
  • Do not use an outdoor cooking appliance indoors (propane barbecue, hibachi-style grill, etc.).
  • Lower the thermostats to a minimum to avoid an overload when the power is restored.
  • Keep a lamp plugged in to know when the power is restored.
  • Flush the toilet and partially open the taps to run a small amount of water several times a day, to prevent the pipes from freezing, unless the municipality advises otherwise.
  • Follow the operating instructions for your backup heating system.
  • Follow the instructions for the installation and use of the generator, if you have one.

Follow the generator operating instructions

If you use a backup generator, be sure to:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions before starting the device.
  • Turn off the main breaker in the home before plugging in the generator.
  • Install the generator outside the home on an elevated base, sheltered from bad weather.
  • Install the generator away from doors and windows, to ensure that the exhaust does not enter the house.
  • Plug electrical devices into the generator power outlets.
  • Ensure that extension cords, if used, are safe and approved by an agency recognized by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec.
  • Never allow the power cables to lie in water (in the event of flooding).
  • Do not overload the generator.
  • Turn off the generator for one hour every eight hours.
  • Turn off the generator and let it cool down before refuelling.

Once the power has been restored, turn off the generator and unplug it before turning on the main breaker in the home.

​If the generator was installed by a professional, follow the manufacturer’s and the installer’s instructions.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

Know how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Avoid the risk of hypothermia

If there is a power failure during the winter and you remain in your home, be alert for symp​toms of hypothermia​ and follow the advice below to reduce the danger. However, it is not necessary to take risks; leave your home if you believe your safety is in jeopardy.

  • Assemble the occupants of the dwelling in the same room.
  • Move about as much as possible.
  • Cover yourself with a survival blanket or sleeping bag if you are immobile.
  • Wear several layers of clothing instead of one thick garment.
  • Choose clothing made of fabrics that do not retain moisture, such as polyester and polypropylene.
  • Avoid wearing cotton or wool clothing next to the skin.
  • Snack frequently on carbohydrate-rich foods like nuts and fresh or dried fruit.
  • Consume hot drinks or soups.
  • Avoid coffee because of its effect on blood circulation.
  • Avoid alcohol because it lowers body temperature.
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Evacuate your home

If the authorities require it or you believe your safety is in jeopardy, evacuate your home. Inform your family or the municipality of the place where you plan to stay temporarily.

Remember to unplug electrical appliances and electronic devices, except the refrigerator and the freezer, to avoid voltage surges when the power is restored.

In winter, you must also:

  • Put antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls, in dishwasher and washing machine drain hoses, and in bathroom and kitchen sinks.
  • Close the water inlet and drain the pipes.
  • Avoid leaving containers in the home that could burst when frozen.
  • Make sure that your backup heating system is turned off.

Return to your home

If the authorities allow it and your safety is not jeopardized, return to your home, preferably during the day, when problems and hazards are easier to see. When you arrive, take pictures to document the damage to your home.

Know what to do after a disaster

Consult the After a disaster section to learn instructions and recommendations for getting back to normal in a safe manner.

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