Every year, Ontarians hear reports of storm damage across the province. Reports of downed power lines, power outages and floods hit the news; what should homeowners know in the event that stormy weather strikes?

Flooding in Hamilton

Flooding

No part of a flooded installation can be assumed safe, not even the main
breaker. Before the equipment is tested or worked on, all power should be disconnected at the service panel with the main switch being left in the "off" position until work has been completed. In the event that flood water has risen above outlets, covers power cords or is near the service panel, contact your local distribution company to disconnect power to your home. Once power has been turned off or disconnected, a licensed electrical contractor should be contacted to determine if electrical equipment (wires, plugs) need to be replaced.

Do not plug in or attempt to use electrical appliances that have been wet until they have been checked or serviced by an electrician or service agency. Ask your electrician, or contact the manufacturer or dealer for the nearest service location.

Guidelines on what to do in the event of flooding or water damage.

Power outages

Power outages that occur during storms are often associated with a downed power line. Residents should be aware that downed power lines may still be energized and should stay at least 10 metres or 33 feet away until Alectra Utilities (formerly Horizon Utilities) has disconnected power or completed power line repairs.

Portable emergency generators

More and more Ontario residents are purchasing portable emergency generators to use in the event of a power outage. Portable generators are used to provide an alternative energy source until conventional electrical power is restored. These units should not be directly connected into a home wiring system without considering safety precautions. Careful purchase decisions, proper installation and diligent inspection are essential to make the portable generator safe for owners, their homes, and utility workers. Research your purchase carefully. Ensure all components of your generator have been approved by a recognized certification agency and that your generator includes a transfer device and proper connection cords. Contact a licensed electrical contractor if you are unsure of your homes electrical or generator installation requirements.

Lightning storms

Keep Safe When Lightning Strikes

Thunderstorms are common place in the hot weather. During the summer months, lightning flashes occur about once every three seconds in Canada.

Up to a million times more powerful than household current, lightning bolts can be deadly. A lightning bolt can cause cardiac arrest when the current enters the body. It can also lead to organ damage and burns, sometimes with long-term effects.

In Canada, lightning takes an average of six or seven lives every year and seriously injures 60 to 70 people. The number of strikes is highest in southern Ontario: Windsor receives the most, followed by Toronto and Hamilton. In western Canada, lightning causes about half of all forest fires. Lightning usually strikes higher ground and prominent objects, especially those that conduct electricity. Anything metal poses a risk.

Personal electronic devices such as iPods, cell phones and beepers worn on the body during thunderstorms, can contribute to injury when one is struck by lightning. It is not the metal that initially attracts the lightning. The metal conducts the electricity and causes contact burns. Metal jewelry, including body piercing and coins kept in pockets have been known to contribute to burns.

Lightning can strike several kilometres from its source so early precautions are crucial. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, reassess your plans for outdoor activities. If you can hear thunder, then you are close to the storm. You are considered to be in the high danger zone if you are less than 10 kilometres away. Use the 30/30 Rule to help you. If you can count 30 seconds or less between hearing thunder and seeing lightning, you should seek shelter immediately. Do not resume any outdoor activities until you have waited at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. It is crucial to ensure that the risk of a lightning strike has passed completely.

It's critical to know what not to do. Some people try to protect themselves from the heavy rain under trees. This is a very bad idea. If lightning strikes a tree, electricity will run down the trunk, through the roots and into the ground, causing a strong shock.

Thunder storm tips

DoDon't

Stay clear of high ground and open spaces.

Seek shelter in a house, large building or motor vehicle. Keep windows and doors shut.

If you are riding a bicycle, motorcycle or ATV, get off. The rubber tires will not protect you.

If you are boating, head for shore. If caught on the water, crouch low in the boat.

If you are in a flat, open field, bend down and put your hand on your knees. Maintain minimum contact with the ground.

Avoid contact with metal. Stay at least 30 metres away from metal fences and take off shoes that have metal cleats.

Stay away from water, including lakes and puddles.

Stay sheltered until the storm is over.

Don't seek shelter under a tree, in a shed, or in a small, open building.

Don't lie down on the ground.

Don't take a shower or bath. If lightning strikes the plumbing system it can be conducted into the tub or shower.

Don't use the phone or electrical appliances unless absolutely necessary. Electricity travels through wires.

Don't use a mobile phone outdoors.

Don't hold a golf club, umbrella or fishing rod.

Don't travel in a severe storm. If you are caught in your car, open the windows a bit and park off the road away from power lines.

Don't try to finish your activity. Postpone that inning or round of golf until the storm has completely passed.

For additional information please visit the Electrical Safety Authority or Canada Safety Council websites.