trucking driving on icy road

Ice Storms


Extreme and changing weather conditions – including high humidity, freezing temperatures, and ice storms – can cause ice to form on power lines. Ice weight can put a lot of stress on power lines and damage equipment.

To help keep you and your family safe during winter storms, follow these electrical safety tips:

  • Heavy accumulation of snow and ice can bring trees and branches down onto power lines. This can cause power outages and electrically charged hazards. Regularly inspect the trees surrounding your property. Call your local authority to trim branches away from overhead power lines before they lead to a bigger issue;
  • Try to stay warm and safe. Make sure portable heaters and electric blankets have a recognized certification mark; and
  • Icy, snowy roads mean countless car wrecks caused by skidding and slipping. If you lose control of your vehicle and hit a power pole, STAY in your vehicle (unless your car is on fire). Getting out of the vehicle puts you at risk for shock. If the danger of fire means you need to get out, don't touch your vehicle. Jump with your feet together and hop away. Stay back the length of a school bus from the downed powerline.

Portable Generators

  • Never use a generator indoors. Use it in a dry area outdoors and away from open doors, windows and vents;
  • Check the generator and all parts for a recognized certification mark;
  • Portable generators permanently installed into your electrical wiring must have a transfer device. This protects your home and the utility system by preventing generator power from flowing back into the utility system. You must take out an electrical notification (permit) to permanently connect a generator to your home's electrical system. ESA strongly recommends hiring a Licensed Electrical Contractor to properly install your generator. You can find a Licensed Electrical Contractor using ESA's contractor lookup tool;
  • Never connect portable generators to electrical appliances or wiring components affected by flood water;
  • If you must use extension cords, make sure they are the grounded type with three prongs and rated for how you're planning to use them. Coiled cords can get extremely hot; always uncoil cords and lay them flat; and
  • Gasoline and its vapors are extremely flammable. Allow the generator engine to cool at least two minutes before refueling. Always use fresh gasoline.

After the Storm

Look for damage to electrical connection to your house (stand pipes and masts)

Visually check (do not touch!) for damage to stand pipes/masts. These are the pipes typically attached to the side of a house, connecting incoming hydro wires to the electrical meter. If the pipe/mast is pulled away from your home or damaged in any way, contact a Licensed Electrical Contractor to arrange repairs.

  • Do not touch, even if you believe the power is off;
  • Stay at least 11 meters (about the length of a school bus) back from the wires;
  • Do NOT attempt the repairs yourself; and
  • Contact a Licensed Electrical Contractor to make repairs.  Find one near you using ESA's contractor lookup tool.

Look for damage inside your home caused by flooding

Burst pipes, burst or backed-up watermains and other sources may have caused flooding inside your home. If water in your basement is above the level of electrical outlets or near your electrical panel, do not enter the basement. Wait until your utility has disconnected the power.

If there is no standing water in your basement, do a visual check. Look (do not touch!) for water damage to electrical outlets, panels, wiring and appliances. If water has made contact:

  • Do not touch, even if you believe the power is off;
  • Do NOT attempt to repair it yourself;
  • Contact a Licensed Electrical Contractor to make repairs to panels, wiring and outlets. Find a Licensed Electrical Contractor near you using ESA's contractor lookup tool; and
  • Do not use electrical appliances that have been affected by water.  Hire a qualified appliance repair person to check for and repair any damage.

Be careful when clearing up snow, ice and debris

If you are clearing away snow, ice, tree limbs or other debris around your home, stay clear of electrical wires.

  • Do not attempt to clear tree limbs that are leaning on or caught in powerlines. Report them to your local utility;
  • Be careful when carrying and moving ladders. Do not make contact with overhead powerline or even get near them. Electricity can jump from the wires to items like ladders, so you don't even have to make physical contact to risk shock or injury. Stay back 11 meters (about the length of a school bus); and
  • Be careful when digging through snow or chipping ice. Make sure that snow or ice hasn't buried downed powerlines.