When weather strikes in Muskoka – the lights go out.

Are you prepared for blackouts?
Due to increasing demand for energy, during the summer months we are more likely to experience black-outs, and we know in Muskoka / Lake Of Bays it’s pretty normal to lose power at your cottage. While most of these are for brief periods of time, there are times where it will be down for an hour or more. Don’t get caught in the dark at your waterfront cottage by following some of these tips.

Emergency lighting.
A path to safety (and alternate route) should be lit up for employees and / or customers by emergency lighting. Check your emergency equipment in order to ensure that they are working correctly. Replace burnt out or fading bulbs. If building your own home, why not invest in simple emergency lighting for areas such as the basement, stairways or hallways, where light is vital during an emergency. Always keep the fire route clear and go over the plan regularly with all family members.

Flashlights and working batteries (It’s Muskoka you better have flashlights!). Keep your flashlights and batteries in an area that is easily reached in the dark. Inform employees/family members of where these items are. Check them every month or so to ensure that they’re working (and still there). Try to have a few flashlights, and some emergency candles (and matches).

A phone that can operate without electrical power (Again, it’s Muskoka – cell service is spotty anyways!). Many people don’t realize their digital phones shut off when power is lost. In order to call for help, already overloaded cell phone systems are unreliable, so you can’t assume that having one will be helpful. Ensure that you have at least two non-electrical phones available. Try unplugging your phone from it’s power outlet to see if it will function in an emergency.

Computer backups in case of computer failure/damage (Yes- computers, tablets are part of cottage life). If your computer does sustain damage, ensure that you are keeping regular backups of your vital information such as accounting and customer/personal records. Check that the backups are not only backing up properly onto cd/tape/dvd, but that the backups work! It’s best to keep a weekly copy of essential data off-site to ensure it’s safety.

UPSs and surge protectors on computers (Even at the Muskoka cottage it’s a good idea!). For desktop computers, use a simple UPS that provides you with at least 10 minutes of time to properly shut down your computer. For vital computers/servers, invest in a UPS that provides up to 20 minutes of power. Try to avoid having computers shut themselves off due to low power, as it can destabilize them.

Keeping safe when power returns (Oops was at the campfire missed that!). To avoid tripping alarms when the power returns, follow instructions from your security company/product to prevent this from occurring. Test your alarms every few months (or as specified) to ensure they’re working correctly. Plan for drills to ensure that you and your employees know how to respond. Ensure that employees are away from any machinery that may suddenly start up if the power returns. Try to ensure that all machinery and dangerous items are shut down and will not power up on their own when the power is back on.

Train employees how to conduct business during blackouts (I am at my cottage in Muskoka, employees?). Go through what is expected of each employee/position in the event of a black out. Some companies have a limit set as to how long employees are to stay in the business before heading home during a blackout. Show employees how to manually process a credit card payment, and how to handle transactions without the use of a computer.

Communicate with employees (see above). If the power is out for a number of days and your business closes, make sure to contact employees and inform them what is expected. This is especially important for night shift employees, so they do not attempt to get to work in the dark to find it’s closed and have to drive home again. The safety of you and your employees is more important than the building you work at. Be reasonable and do everything you can to ensure that employees are informed as to what is expected from them.

Listen to the radio (A guitar outside works well too). Make sure you have a battery powered radio. This most often will give you instructions, tips and information in regards to handling the blackout. Always remain calm. Do not go screaming out into the street claiming that the world has come to an end, unless it actually has.

Help prevent blackouts! – Install lighting controls such as dimmers and timers to reduce hydro usage. – Use energy efficient lamps and fixtures wherever possible, (especially lights that are on 5 or more hours a day each week) – Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioning units. If you must have AC, invest in an energy efficient model. – Turn OFF anything that you do not require on. – Ask us about energy efficient products for your home or business!

Related Links:
Energy reduction tips – The Office of Energy Efficiency (Canadian)
Energy reduction tips – The Office of Energy Efficiency (US)