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Wires Down – No Electricity

Wires Down – No Electricity

I am going to share with you the story of the day I lost power.  It was a small incident that reminded me of the importance of being prepared for emergencies.   Toronto Hydro has an excellent brochure:  ARE YOU READY? HOW TO PREPARE YOUR FAMILY FOR AN EMERGENCY. I did not read it until after my power was restored.  Page 6 of the brochure has a list of what to do during an outage.  Let’s see how I did and what I could have done better.

It was a dark and stormy Friday night. The wind howled while my family slept soundly. Crash! A tree branch fell on the electricity wires leading from the pole to the house. Nobody heard the crash. The carbon monoxide monitor beeped every 20 seconds indicating that the battery was low. I woke to the beeps in the otherwise eerily silent and dark house, a house without electricity.

There were no numbers on my clock radio – my cell phone indicated it was 4 am. I looked out my bedroom window. Hmmm, my neighbour behind my house still had their patio lights on, maybe it was just my street. I went out my front door to view the street lights. That is when I saw it – the branch that knocked out my electricity service line! Live wires lay on the ground! Oh darn, I have to go into repair mode, doing nothing is not an option.

Check – I identified the source of the outage.

Check – Unplug computers, televisions, stereos and other electronics in case of a power surge.

City workers clearing tree branch that fell on service wires.

City workers clearing the tree branch that fell on service wires

I live I Toronto, so I have the benefit of the “311” line. The operator took my information and made a work order for the city crews to come clean up the branch. I explained that I did not have Toronto Hydro’s number handy, so she transferred my call once she was finished. I was hopeful after speaking to the Toronto Hydro agent that my electricity would be restored within a couple hours. Job done, I went back to bed.

I could have done better:  I did not have a list of emergency numbers handy.  The city help line appropriately connected me to the power company.  In Toronto, report downed power lines to 416.542.8000

The grey dawn light passing through my bedroom window greeted me as I woke. My clock radio was still blank. Ugh! I want my coffee. I dressed, leashed the dog and headed outside. One look at the downed wires and I put the back dog inside so that I could investigate. The branch took down more than the wires, it took down my service mast! Double darn-it! Now I need to call my insurance company and an electrician.

Done:  Stay away from a live wires.  Keep children and pets away too.

Electrical service mast pulled of outer wall.

Electrical service mast pulled of outer wall.

Service mast broke at joint above meter.

Service mast broke at joint above meter.

I got the weekend service for the insurance company.  At that time I did not know if I was making a claim or not, but I felt it best to get a claim started just in  case I needed it.  Really – how expensive is it to put the service mast back up?  A couple hours work at most and some pipe.  I thought it might be less than my $500 deductible. (On Monday I found out that it was almost 4 times my deductible!)  In any case, my insurance company hooked me up with an electrician.  I spoke with the contractor over the phone and found out that I wouldn’t be able to get an electrician until Monday at the earliest. Why do these things happen on weekends?  I was worried. Could Toronto Hydro hook up my power with my service mast down?

Note to self: I should add my insurance phone number and policy number to the emergency phone list I am preparing.  If I had contractors, I should also add them to the list.

It was time to plan for a long term outage.  I asked my neighbour if I could plug in an extension cord into one her outlets and use her electricity.   She thankfully agreed.  I ran the power cord from her living room to my basement where I plugged in my freezer.  I unplugged my freezer occasionally to put in other appliances as needed: my water kettle (I needed coffee), the microwave oven and later in the day my lights,

Done: During an outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.

By 8:00 in the evening I had power!  The electricians from Toronto Hydro made a temporary fix to my service mast so that the could hook up my service.  I happily signed an agreement that I would have the mast repaired properly within a couple weeks.

Other items in the brochure’s to do list include:

  • If you have electric heating, turn down the thermostats in case of a power surge
  • Don’t go near electrical equipment around areas of standing water, like a flooded basement
  • Never use BBQs, propane heaters or portable generators indoors
  • Never leave candles unattended, whenever possible, use a flashlight
  • Don’t use a gas stove as a source of heat
  • Secure windows and doors as well as outdoor furniture and equipment
  • Park vehicle in protected areas, if possible

Most of us have come to expect that electricity will always be there. The utility companies remind us to be prepared, outages can happen here. They do happen; big ones like North America’s largest power outage in 2003 or the ice-storm of December 2013 and little ones like my situation.

In this case, I relied on my instincts and experience and everything turned out fine.  I want to be better prepared for next time, actually I want my whole family to be better prepared for next time.  Not all of my family members know what to do nor where I keep important information.

Watch out for my next post where I put together my emergency kit and train my family on what to do in case of a home emergency.

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