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Dos and don'ts for dealing with power outages

Dos and don'ts for dealing with power outagesA power line is wrapped around a fallen tree branch on Dawes Road in Scarborough, Monday, December 23, 2013. A day after a severe ice storm hit Toronto, many residents remain without power and downed trees and power lines pose hazards on many streets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Galit Rodan

TORONTO - Christmas may be merry, but not necessarily bright for thousands of Canadians left in the dark by a recent ice storm. Here are a few dos and don'ts for those who find themselves facing the holidays without electricity.

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Do:

-Eat what's in your fridge, but cautiously. Refrigerated food should be safe for the first four hours you spend without power. After that, it starts to spoil. Food safety guidelines suggest you should avoid eating it if its internal temperature has climbed above four degrees Celsius. Food in a half-full freezer should be safe for 24 hours, while a full freezer can maintain cold temperatures for up to 48 hours. After that, try to relocate the food somewhere cold -- like just outside your front door, where frigid temperatures are expected to prevail over the next few days.

-Unplug all unnecessary appliances to protect them from potential power surges as hydro crews work to restore electricity. And make sure the stove is off. Leave on only select lights to let you know that you're back up and running.

-Keep a few taps turned on to a trickle to prevent pipes from freezing.

-You may find that your cellphone is your only remaining means of communication with the outside world, and if so you should conserve battery life. You can make the most of a limited resource by turning down the screen brightness and turning off power-hungry functions such as Bluetooth, WiFi and location services.

-No heat? No problem. At least not if you have a few tea lights and clay pots on hand. Below are some videos that show two different techniques for staying warm without a furnace:

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaSVibPBPmU

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brHqBcZqNzE

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Don't:

-Don't use generators, barbecues, camping stoves or other types of outdoor heaters in the home. They all generate carbon monoxide, a colourless and odourless gas which is fatal if allowed to accumulate.

-Steer clear of downed power lines. They could still be live and deadly even if they show no active danger signs.

-Candles and wood-burning fires may be effective tools during a blackout, but they should never be left unattended. Douse all flames before leaving a room. A safer candle alternative is a battery-powered or wind-up LED light, which uses hardly any electricity.

-Don't keep opening your fridge and freezer doors to check on food safety. Your supplies will last longer if the doors are kept shut as much as possible.

-Avoid internal wires or fuses that may have come into contact with water. Leave those to an electrician if you have concerns.

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Bonus (a do and a don't):

-Don't be a Scrooge. Check on friends and family without power, and if possible offer help to those left out in the cold.

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Source: Government of Canada (http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/pwrtgs-drng-eng.aspx)

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