Power outages can happen any time throughout the year. According to BC Hydro, the stormy weather that BC gets from October to February brings a higher risk of damage. The high winds and rain we experience throughout our province usually doubles the number of calls to BC Hydro about power outages compared to the rest of the year. The following are some things to keep in mind during power outages.
Turn off all the light switches except for 1 indoors and 1 outdoors. This way you and the BC Hydro crews working outside will know when the power has been restored. For updated information on local area outages, refer to the following BC Hydro site map.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the temperature. A refrigerator can keep your food cold for about 4 hours, a full freezer can keep food frozen for about 48 hours and a half full freezer can keep food frozen for about 24 hours.
Unplug major electronics like your computer and television and turn the thermostats for your home’s heating system down to low to prevent damage from a power surge when the power is restored.
For cooking and heating purposes, never use charcoal or gas barbeques, fuel burning camping equipment or portable generators indoors as they produce a deadly carbon monoxide gas.
Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector with battery back-up.
During power outages, you may be without running water if you rely on a well pump. For this reason, keep an emergency supply on hand and replenish as needed.
If you only have a cordless phone, you will be left without phone service. Having a corded phone handy and making sure your cell phone is fully charged is a good idea.
To keep yourself informed about the power outages, have a battery powered radio on hand.
Report any fallen trees or downed power lines to BC Hydro at 1-888-769-3766.
If there are downed power lines, stay at least 10 metres (33 feet) away from them.
Power outages can cause damage to your electrical system. Being prepared ahead of time could save you a big headache later. Having your appliances and electronics surge protected could help save them from damage.
A fall electrical maintenance routine is important to prepare your electrical system for the coming winter months. The following is a checklist of some fall electrical maintenance tasks that every homeowner should be aware of.
With leaves now falling from the trees, homeowners may be using leaf blowers to clear their yards. If an extension cord is needed for any fall cleanup equipment, make sure to use only an outdoor rated cord with the appropriate wire gauge size.
If you have trees in your yard, make sure to cut back all branches from around overhead cables. It is better to do it now, before the stormy weather starts to prevent possible damage caused by falling branches. BC Hydro states that branches need to be 3 meters or 10 feet from the cables.
Visually check overhead connection points where your service enters your home to ensure that the cables appear tight and the attachment point is undamaged. If you have any concerns, contact our electricians to check for any safety issues and make the required repairs.
Check all exterior vents for any electrical appliances to make sure that they are clear of debris and that no critters have taken up residence.
Check all exterior lighting and change burned out light bulbs. Reset timers if needed.
Check that all outdoor receptacles are GFCI protected. All outdoor receptacles should be protected with a Code required weatherproof in-use cover. This will prevent water from damaging the sensitive GFCI electronics, even when the receptacle is in use.
Make sure septic, water or sump pumps are tested and working properly. A battery backup for your pump would be strongly advised for when power outages occur. Here is more information on Sump Pump Safety.
Your electrical panel should always remain clean and dry. If you notice any rust or corrosion, call our electricians who are able to provide an Electrical Panel Safety check.
If you have a generator, it should be serviced now to make sure it’s in good working order and ready to go for the next power outage.
Using space heaters is common this time of year. Never use an extension cord to power a space heater as this may cause the cord to overheat and result in a fire.
Gently dust or vacuum your smoke alarms. Dust can build up on the sensor causing it to be less effective.
Vacuum your bathroom exhaust fan grill to keep it clear of dust. This will help extend the life of the fan motor.
Our electricians would be happy to assist you with all your fall electrical maintenance repairs. Regular service and maintenance of your electrical system may identify minor concerns before they become expensive repairs.
The concern regarding flooding and electricity tends to come up most often in springtime. That’s because spring is considered to be Flood Season in most parts of Canada. The reality is that any home can be affected by flooding, and at any time of year. Since flooding and electricity is always a dangerous combination, some basic electrical safety knowledge is helpful.
Whether your home falls victim to the rising waters in a flood prone area, or an over flowing toilet, knowing what to do (or not to do) regarding electrical safety during a flood is important.
Flooding and Electricity Safety Tips
Never touch electrical equipment or appliances if you are wet or standing in water. This could result in an electrical shock or even electrocution.
If it is safe to do so, unplug appliances and electrical devices from the power source receptacle.
If possible, move appliances out of the path of water, whether from external flooding or a burst pipe, water heater, or over flowing tub or toilet.
Do not enter the basement or low lying areas where water and electricity may both be present.
If water is approaching and the area around the electrical panel is still completely dry, turn OFF the main breaker before you evacuate. This helps to prevent fires and protect first responders who may need to enter the building.
If you have advance notice of a flood and have time to prepare, move electrical appliances to a higher level out of the path of approaching water.
If flood water has already entered your building, do not touch any electrical components. Call a licensed electrician for help to safely access the electrical risks.
Watch for damaged or downed power lines while evacuating.
Stay out of standing water as it may be electrically charged by an underground power source or downed power lines.
Homes located in low lying, flood prone areas should have a Flood Evacuation Plan in place so family members/occupants know what to do and where to go, in the event of a flood emergency. For information on how to develop an Emergency Flood Evacuation Plan, Click HERE.
Inspect and service the hot water tank regularly, as this is a very common cause of flooding. Replace an aging hot water tank as recommended by the manufacturer.
Keep gutters and down spouts clear of debris, ice and snow so water can drain away from the house and not pool around the foundation and openings to the home.
Inspect and maintain electric sewer and sump pumps annually. Install battery backup pumps with alarms to alert you when it is running on battery power.
Water damage is a major contributor to high insurance claims resulting in increased annual premiums to a homeowner’s insurance policy. Although flood damage from natural causes is not usually controllable, regular service and maintenance of electrical and plumbing equipment can often identify equipment problems before a flood can occur.
An alarming statistic has revealed that modern homes burn faster than homes built 30 years ago. An Underwriters Laboratory study indicates that occupants in newer homes have less than three minutes to escape a burning building versus 17 minutes from older homes. This is a significant difference. With this new information, the urgency to evacuate the burning building as quickly as possible cannot be overstated. Homeowners need to understand that a three minute window does not allow time to gather precious belongings, look for the cat, or try to fight the fire themselves.
So what is Causing Homes to Burn Faster?
Studies show that the cause of house fires today, versus 100 years ago, has not changed significantly. Human error involving unattended candles, smoking in bed, poorly stored flammable liquids and faulty electrical are still the main causes. What has changed in recent years is the speed at which the fire and smoke spread throughout the structure.
Three causes have been identified as main contributors to this difference:
Furnishings: The things we fill our homes with, such as upholstered furniture, drapery and carpeting, consist mostly of fast burning synthetic materials. Decades ago, slower burning natural materials and fibers were more common.
Design: The popular open floor plan, commonly found in modern homes, actually contributes to the speed at which a fire spreads. This large open space provides lots of available oxygen to fuel a blaze versus the smaller rooms with doors common to older style homes.
Construction: Today’s homes are typically dimensional wood frame construction versus the heavier lumber and beams used in the distant past. In an effort to construct safer homes, builders are encouraged to exceed fire rating standards and use more fire resistant composite lumber products, multi layered fire rated gypsum board, and steel studs in addition to concrete and brick. Any construction measure that slows the rate of fire spread provides the occupants a better chance of escape and reduces the degree of structural damage.
Armed with this information, homeowners should always be making decisions that increase the fire safety of their homes in each of these areas. The most obvious and cost effective safety measure is the installation of the common household smoke detector. An up-to-date, functioning, hard-wired smoke alarm with battery backup, will provide the homeowner with the most reliable early warning of fire, giving occupants the best chance to get out safely. For more information on smoke alarms, please check out the following link.
In an effort to address the concern that modern homes burn faster, building codes may soon be changing. A task force, commissioned by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, has recently approached the National Building Code of Canada with a recommendation that mandatory sprinkler systems should be included in the Building Code for all new construction as early as 2020. Related industries are now in discussion on how this recommendation would impact the cost of new construction.