Tips on how to stay safe after the Ottawa storm

Residents in the Ottawa region continue to grapple with the damage left in the wake of Saturday’s powerful storms.

Tens of thousands remain without power and it’s not clear when it will be restored.

Here are some tips to staying safe during the outage — from how to keep food from spoiling to documenting damage for an insurance claim.

Food and freezers

Food that’s been in refrigerators, especially dairy, meat and leftovers, likely isn’t safe to eat anymore, according to a notice for residents and food-based businesses from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit.

“When in doubt, throw it out,” it warns.

Food that’s been in a freezer, meanwhile, should be OK as long as it stays frozen or below 4 C, the health unit said.

A Government of Canada web page that provides tips for power outages also suggests leaving the fridge door closed unless absolutely necessary. A freezer can keep food frozen for 24-36 hours if it isn’t opened, it adds.

heating and cooking

David Arama is the director of WSC Survival School Inc. in Cloyne, Ont., about an hour’s drive north of Kingston.

I have suggested another way to keep food from going bad is to cook what you can on the barbecue.

“That way it’s not going to spoil so fast,” I explained.

The government site cautions people never to use charcoal or gas barbecues indoors as they give off carbon monoxide, which is odorless and can be life-threatening.

People are advised to use proper candle holders and not to leave candles unattended or where children could grab them.

Arama, who has written a book providing survival skills for emergencies, said fire is a “big danger” during a prolonged power outage.

Sleeping bags and wool blankets are a safe way to stay warm without electricity, he added.

Arama also said people should conserve battery power where they can and only use flashlights or head lamps when necessary.

well water

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit says those who rely on wells for water should be aware that treatment systems might not be working while the power is out. In the meantime, it was advised using another source of water, or boiling it for one minute then letting it cool, before using it.

Once the power is back on, residents should flush their lines and take a sample to make sure the treatment system is working again.


One of the first things to do is list and document storm damage to your home, vehicle or belongings using video and photos, according to Anne Marie Thomas, director of consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

If you are doing any cleanup yourself, or paying someone else to do it, Thomas said keep receipts showing what you’ve spent as you may be reimbursed.

“All of us as either homeowners or insurance policy owners, we have an obligation to sort of mitigate damage,” she said.

“If you can’t get, whether it’s a roofer or construction personnel, today, maybe tarp … holes, patch up what you can in order to prevent further damage,” Thomas added, noting people should not enter a property if it’s not safe all so

Thomas added it’s a good idea to call your insurance representative as soon as you can to get a claim started.

If the storm left your vehicle undriveable, she suggested checking your policy to see if it includes the option of having the insurance company pay for a rental until it’s repaired.

Thomas said it will be some time before the IBC has a sense of just how much damage the storm caused.

What if things are really bad?

If a person is in a dangerous situation, and they are able to, they may want to leave home for a few days,” said Arama, the survival expert.

That will provide time for storm cleanup, allow hydro companies time to get power back up and running and give people a safe place to stay.

“If things are really bad, get out of there and spend two, three days in a motel,” he said. “Have a shower, some food.”

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