Ottawa’s largest machine is our city’s electricity grid. Spread over more than 1,100 square kilometres, this system kept power humming for Hydro Ottawa customers 99.981 per cent of the time in 2020, despite being exposed to all elements and temperatures. That success is a result of years of storm-hardening our system to make sure it’s robust enough to weather almost any storm.
While the warmth and sunshine of summer lulls us into a false sense of security from power outages, the truth is that summer storms are a consistent threat thanks to our region’s penchant for humidity and extreme heat; particularly when that combination manifests into dangerous heat waves, lightning, strong winds, hail, thunderstorms or tornadoes.
In fact, the severity and frequency of summer storms helped prompt Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to change its national alert system for extreme weather events just last month.
Understanding the urgency to alert Canadians of imminent weather danger, ECCC has categorized provinces into smaller regional zones to target areas and residents with more precision. Instead of using area codes, alerts are now cellphone-tower-based - so if you are in the vicinity of a pending weather emergency, you will receive a broadcast alert on your cell phone. Of course, these types of notifications are reserved for life-threatening emergencies, but it highlights the increasing need to keep Canadians informed of extreme weather.
Hydro Ottawa also alerts its customers of pending storms and possible outages by keeping up with weather events minute-by-minute. If you follow us on Twitter, you’ve likely seen our weather warning messages, and how we plan ahead by keeping crews on standby and relocating resources so if the power does go out, we can be ready to restore it as safely and as quickly as possible.
So you don’t get thunderstruck by oncoming weather alerts - here are some summer storm tips to help you prepare and see them through:
- Prolonged summer heat waves can cause power outages as air conditioning usage soars, so watch for public appeals for electricity conservation and reduction. It’s rare, but if it happens, set your thermostat to 26 degrees Celsius and turn off all non-essential items in your home. Being mindful of summer electricity usage is also good for your bill and the environment. Find more ways to manage your energy here.
- To help you and your family feel prepared for nearly any emergency, create an emergency kit using our ultimate checklist.
- If you have a mobility disability and you’re living in a building that requires the use of an elevator, be sure to inform the building management that you may need assistance when evacuating.
- Ensure that any generator connected to your home’s electrical system feeds through an approved transfer panel and switch that has been installed by a qualified electrician.
- Install backup power for your sump pump. This will help avoid flooding during power outages.
What to do if a power outage happens
- Report power outages using Hydro Ottawa’s 24/7 outage line at 613 738-0188, online via MyAccount, or using our mobile app. Our outage map is another visual aid that can help you track what outages are happening across the city at any given time. Watch the video on how to read the map.
- Only use camp stoves, and charcoal or gas barbecues outdoors.
- If your house has a sump pump without a backup power supply, clear valuables from the basement in case flooding occurs. Do not enter a flooded basement unless you are sure the power is disconnected.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible during an outage. Visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website for more information.
- Only use generators outdoors. Exhaust fumes could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if they are not properly vented.
For more great tips and advice, visit our Outage Safety page.
Weather is just one of the many causes of power outages. That’s why it’s important for us to understand how power outages happen so we can plan how to invest in our system to keep it as reliable as possible. So here’s hoping we haven’t jinxed ourselves and that, by acknowledging that power outages happen even on sunny days, we will all be a little better prepared over the warmest months of the year.