Short-Term Power Outages

Rolling Blackouts

A rolling blackout occurs when there is insufficient power supply to provide electricity to all parts of the province. In these cases, supply may be interrupted to certain areas. The areas are selected using sophisticated computer programs and models. The blackouts are typically 30 minutes in duration, and then the power is restored and another area is turned off. These blackouts usually occur during peak energy usage times, usually between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, but they can happen at any time of day. Blackouts may affect the same area more than once a day, and may exceed an hour’s duration.

Rolling blackouts should not be confused with planned service interruptions, which are planned ahead of time by Essex Powerlines when there is a need to disable electricity from a specific area (ex. construction zone).

How Do I Find Out if My Area Will Have a Rolling Blackout?

Listen to local television, radio, and check the Essex Powerlines web site. Usually, rolling blackouts occur under generation deficiencies on the Province’s power grid or equipment limitations on Essex Powerlines distribution system or on Hydro One’s transmission system. Essex Powerlines may not have sufficient notice of an impending rolling blackout to provide notice of the power outage. Essex Powerlines provides as much notice as it can through public media.

Top Safety Tips for a Blackout

  • Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Never use candles!
  • Turn off electrical equipment you were using when the power went out (stove, iron, etc.).
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Do not run a generator inside a home or garage.
  • If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home’s electrical panel or outlet.
  • Listen to CKLW every half hour for updated information.

How Can I Prepare Before a Blackout Happens?

Assemble essential supplies, including:

  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Portable radio
  • At least one gallon of water
  • A small supply of food.
  • Due to the extreme risk of fire, do not use candles during a power outage.

If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water, leaving about an inch of space inside each one. Place the containers in the refrigerator and freezer. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold if the power goes out, by displacing air that can warm up quickly with water or ice that keeps cold for several hours without additional refrigeration.

Remember: Water expands as it freezes, so it is important to leave room in the container for the expanded water.

If you use medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist.


If you use a computer, keep files and operating systems backed up regularly. Consider buying extra batteries and a power converter if you use a laptop computer. A power converter allows most laptops (12 volts or less) to be operated from the cigarette lighter of a vehicle. Also, turn off all computers, monitors, printers, copiers, scanners and other devices when they’re not being used. That way, if the power goes out, this equipment will have already been safely shut down. Get a high quality surge protector for all of your computer equipment. If you use the computer a lot, such as for a home business, consider purchasing and installing an un-interruptible power supply (UPS). Consult with your local computer equipment dealer about available equipment and costs.

Electric Garage Door Openers

If you have an electric garage door opener, find out where the manual release lever is located and learn how to operate it. Sometimes garage doors can be heavy, so get help to lift it. If you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home upon return from work, be sure to keep a key to your house with you, in case the garage door will not open.


If you have a telephone system at home or at work that requires electricity to work (such as a cordless phone or answering machine), plan for alternate communication, including having a standard telephone handset, cellular telephone, radio, or pager. Remember, too, that some voice mail systems and remote dial-up servers for computer networks may not operate when the power is out where these systems are located. So even if you have power, your access to remote technology may be interrupted if the power that serves those areas is disrupted. Check with remote service providers to see if they have backup power systems, and how long those systems will operate.


Keep your car fuel tank at least half full because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.

What Do I Do During A Blackout?

  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances (stove, iron, toaster, blender, mixer, etc.), equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer, or furnace.
  • Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when your power returns.
  • Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. If you must eat food that was refrigerated or frozen, check it carefully for signs of spoilage.
  • Use the phone for emergencies only. Listening to a portable radio can provide the latest information. Do not call 9-1-1 for information — only call to report a life-threatening emergency.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion.
  • Remember that equipment such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and elevators may not work during a power outage.
  • If it is hot outside, take steps to remain cool. Move to the lowest level of your home, as cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • If the heat is intense and the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall, or “cooling shelter” that may be opened in your community.
  • Listen to CKLW every half hour for more information.
  • Remember to provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.
  • If it is cold outside, put on layers of warm clothing.
  • Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors.
  • Never use your gas oven as a source of heat.
  • If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (relative, friend, or public facility) that has heat to keep warm.

For More Information:

For more tips on how to keep yourself and your family safe during all types of disasters (both man-made and natural) contact your local Red Cross chapter or log on to