Know the Risks in Your Community – Take Action Today

Do you know what do in a power failure, flood or winter storm? Do you have everything you need during an emergency?
Learn about some of the risks in Toronto and how you can prepare.

As global temperatures continue to rise and the world’s climate continues to destabilize, cities around the world are experiencing more extreme and unusual weather events including extreme temperatures, precipitation, droughts and storms. The incidence of extreme weather is expected to increase in frequency and severity in the years to come.

Check for weather alerts and advisories before you go outdoors:

Extreme Cold

Winter storms such as blizzards, ice storms and heavy snowfalls may create hazardous conditions, frozen or burst pipes, and cause power disruptions. Health impacts associated with extreme cold include frostnip, frostbite, and hypothermia.

Know Your Risks

Health impacts

  • Potential health impacts associated with extreme cold include frostnip, frostbite, and hypothermia. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to organ failure and even death.
  • People most at risk of cold-related illness are people experiencing homelessness, people who work outdoors, people with a pre-existing heart condition or respiratory illness, people taking certain medications, and infants and young children.

Water pipes impacts

  • Frozen pipes can leave you with no water and cause your pipes to burst, leading to expensive property damage. If your pipes are prone to freezing, you may wish to contact a plumber for advice.
    Road Impacts:
  • Damage and disruption to roads, transportation systems and other infrastructure.
  • Dangerous driving and walking conditions.

Actions you can take now

Take steps to protect your pipes from freezing

  • The pipes in your home can freeze in cold weather. This can leave you with no water or cause your pipes to burst, leading to expensive property damage. Take steps to protect your pipes from freezing and learn what to do if they freeze.

Protect your home from snow and ice

Maintain the trees on your property

  • Regularly inspect and prune the trees on your property to encourage the health of the tree and reduce the risk of damaged or diseased limbs falling on power lines during extreme storms.

During a winter storm or extreme cold event

Heat your home to 21°C. For renters: Toronto has a bylaw that requires landlords to provide heating up to at least 21°C between September 15 and June 1 of each year. (Municipal Code Chapter 497 Article 1).

If your home is heated with natural gas, ensure your appliance vents are not blocked with snow or ice. As a safety precaution some furnaces will automatically turn off if vents are blocked. visit Enbridge Gas for more snow and ice safety tips.

For emergency shelter 24/7:

  • Call 311 or central Intake 1-877-338-3398 (free call)

Stay active and safe

  • Wear waterproof and windproof outer layers, a hat and warm mittens
  • Choose wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing; these materials hold more body heat than cotton
  • Change into dry clothing as soon as possible if you get wet from precipitation, sweat or submersion in water
  • Wear several layers of warm lightweight clothing when shovelling snow and follow medical advice if you have a history of back or heart problems
  • Reschedule outdoor activities and limit time outdoors if severe weather is forecast
  • Notify friends or family where you will be when going on outdoor activities, such as hiking and skiing

Take care when walking on ice

  • Take care when walking on ice, many cold-weather injuries result from slips and falls on ice-covered surfaces
  • Keep your steps and walkways free of ice and snow by using rock salt or other de-icing compounds
  • Call 311 for information on sidewalk snow clearing and free snow removal services for senior and disabled persons
    Be cautious about travel
  • Listen to the weather forecast
  • Avoid travelling in low visibility and on ice covered roads
  • Clear your vehicle windows of all frost and snow so you can clearly see pedestrians, cyclists and other road users
  • Take a charged mobile phone
  • Make sure your car has a survival kit including a first aid kit, water and additional warm clothing and let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive
  • Cycle along the City’s network of cycling snow routes, which receive enhanced levels of snow plowing, salting and snow removal.

If your pipes are frozen

Clearing snow and ice from your property

  • Clearing snow and ice from your natural gas meter and appliance exhaust vent
  • Safety precautions when shovelling snow
  • City snow clearing services and timing
  • Snow clearing assistance for seniors and persons with a disability – application
  • Parking during major snowstorms

Services for people experiencing homelessness:

  • If you see someone on the street who needs outreach assistance – which may include a shelter bed due to the cold – call 311. For medical emergencies, call 911.
  • The City funds services throughout Toronto for those experiencing homelessness, including emergency shelters, drop-in centres, 24-hour street respite, housing help, and 24-hour street outreach and assistance to find and keep permanent housing. Learn more.

Programs and incentives

Extreme Cold Weather Alerts
The Medical Officer of Health will issue Extreme Cold Weather Alerts when Environment Canada forecasts a temperature of -15 °C or colder or a wind chill of -20 or colder in the City of Toronto.

Home Energy Loan Program
Improving the energy-efficiency of your home will make your home more comfortable, reduce your energy use and costs, and reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. The City offers low-interest loans for improvements such as energy-efficient furnaces, windows, doors and insulation.

Winter Wise Savings from Toronto Hydro
Toronto Hydro offers programs, rebates and tips to help you save time and electricity all winter long, whether you’re switching to an energy-efficient light bulb or paperless billing, Learn more.

Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
Extreme heat and cold can increase your energy use, and your energy bills. LEAP provides a one-time grant of up to $500 (per year) to eligible low-income customers who have difficulty paying past due energy bills.

Snow Clearing Assistance from the City of Toronto
Seniors and persons with a disability who live in the downtown core and need help to clear their sidewalks of snow, can apply online for the City’s snow-clearing assistance program. Download this application form (PDF) and submit it with the required documentation.

Services for the homeless
During an Extreme Cold Weather Alert, service providers focus on helping homeless people to get off the street and into shelter or street respite.

Extreme Heat

Heat waves are often accompanied by high humidity, which can make the temperature feel hotter and can decrease the ability for the body to cool itself. In the future, Toronto is expected to experience much higher temperatures and more extended heat waves.

Know Your Risks

The higher the temperature and the longer it lasts, the greater the risk of death during a heat wave. High levels of air pollution often occur during hot weather conditions. People with heart and lung conditions, seniors and children should pay special attention to the hourly Air Quality Health Index levels and forecasts.
The risk of power outages also increases during periods of extreme heat as the demand for electricity can exceed the capacity of the electrical system.
During the summer, the combination of high heat, humidity, and smog can be life-threatening, especially for:

  • the elderly, young children and those who are ill or overweight;
  • people who exercise vigorously or are involved in strenuous work outdoors for prolonged periods;
  • people who exercise vigorously or are involved in strenuous work outdoors for prolonged periods
  • people taking certain medications, for example, for mental health conditions.

Actions You Can Take Now

Tips to help you beat the heat

  • Toronto Public Health tips
  • Toronto Emergency Medical Services tips
  • Tips to make your home more comfortable
  • Trees can provide shade and help keep your home cooler
  • Keep curtains and shades drawn to keep out the heat
  • Fans and ceiling fans can provide localized cooling
  • Green roofs and cool roofs can keep your home cooler and reduce your energy use

Programs and incentives

Heat Warnings and Extended Heat Warnings

Toronto Public Health will issue warnings for high heat or humidity that is expected to last two or more days. During this time, heat warning information will be updated daily to reflect the current status, and people should take steps to seek cool temperatures and check on vulnerable family and neighbours to make sure they are alright.

City Cooling Centres and Air Conditioned Spaces
During an extreme heat event, residents are advised to visit an air conditioned place such as a shopping mall, library or community centre. The City also operates cooling centres to help residents stay cool.

Extended Pool Hours During an Extreme Heat Alert
Taking a dip in Toronto’s pools is a great way to stay cool and be safe during the hot summer months in the city. When an Extreme Heat Alert is declared, and when the weather forecast calls for low probability of inclement weather, some outdoor and indoor pools may extend their hours until 11:45 p.m.

Home Energy Loan Program
Improving the energy-efficiency of your home will make your home more comfortable, reduce your energy use and costs, and reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. The City offers low-interest loans for improvements such as energy-efficient furnaces, windows, doors and insulation.

Low income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
Extreme heat and cold can increase your energy use, and your energy bills. LEAP provides a one-time grant of up to $500 (per year) to eligible low-income customers who have difficulty paying past due energy bills.

Toronto Hydro Programs and Rebates
Toronto Hydro offers a variety of programs, rebates and tips to help you save energy and make eco-friendly choices. Learn more.

Eco-Roof Incentive Program
In addition to reducing stormwater runoff, green roofs reduce energy use and heating/cooling costs, help to cool the air, and provide important habitat for wildlife. The City offers financial incentives to help homeowners install a green roof or cool roof on their property.

Request a Free Tree from the City of Toronto
In addition to providing shade and helping to cool and clean the air, trees help prevent flooding and beautify our surroundings. The City of Toronto will plant a free tree on the City-owned road allowance adjacent to your property. Call 311 or visit 311 online to request a free tree.

Storm and Wind Hazards

Severe storms such as tornados and hurricanes vary seasonally and can pose serious risks through rain, high winds, lightning and hail in any season. High-speed winds can cause death, injury and millions of dollars in property damage.

Lightning

Lightning strikes and lightning injuries are infrequent in Toronto, but weather systems that may bring lightening can come with little warning.

Be prepared for an electrical storm by checking the weather forecast before leaving home for a day outdoors. In Canada, the Environment Canada website has the latest information.

In Case of Lightning

Lightning strikes and lightning injuries are infrequent in Toronto, but weather systems that may bring lightening can come with little warning.

Be prepared for an electrical storm by checking the weather forecast before leaving home for a day outdoors. In Canada, the Environment Canada website has the latest information.

  • Even if there is no rain, if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lighting. Seek shelter immediately.
  • Good places to take shelter include an automobile (with a metal roof), or a grounded building such as a house. Stay sheltered for 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning.
  • While indoors, refrain from using, and preferably unplug electronic equipment such as televisions and computers, as well as appliances, (corded) power tools, or (corded) telephones. Refrain from bathing, showering or washing dishes.
  • If caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, stay away from tall objects such as trees, or any objects or structures that conduct electricity, including metal fences, golf clubs, lawnmowers, bicycles, or umbrellas. Avoid bodies of water.
  • Avoid being the high point in an open area. Low-lying areas are preferable to hillsides.
  • If lighting strikes nearby (for example if 30 or fewer seconds elapse between the flash of lighting and the thunderclap) when you are outdoors with no suitable place to take shelter, crouch down, putting your feet together with the heels touching, and your hands over your ears to protect against hearing damage.

If Someone has been Struck by Lightning

If someone has been struck by lightning, call 911 immediately. People who have been struck by lighting may be in shock, and/or suffering from burns. If breathing has stopped, perform CPR until paramedics arrive. People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge and can be safely handled right away.

Major rain storms can cause flooding, especially in low-lying areas. Flash floods may occur without warning as streams and rivers overflow their banks. Heavy rain may also cause sewers to back up.

For flooding related to rivers, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority 24 hour flood line number is 416-661-6514. For basement flooding and sewer back-up, call 311.

Know Your Risks

The risks associated with extreme rain include:

  • basement flooding;
  • flooding and damage to public and private property, including roadways, parks and ravines;
  • disruption of transit systems and public utilities;
  • power outages and disruptions to city-wide transportation systems, sewer and water systems, etc.

Actions You Can Take Now

It is essential for property owners to take steps to reduce the risk of basement flooding on their own private property. The improvements that the City is making to its complex system of underground pipes, sewers and catch basins cannot completely protect your home from basement flooding.

More information:

More ways to reduce the risk of flooding

Maintain the trees on your property

  • Regularly inspect and prune the trees on your property to encourage health and reduce the risk of damaged or diseased limbs falling on power lines during extreme storms.

During Extreme Rain or Flooding

If you are indoors:

If you are outdoors:

  • Seek shelter immediately
  • Keep everyone away from lakes, rivers, creeks and low-lying areas that may be prone to flooding

If you are in a vehicle:

  • Get out of your vehicle and sit on the hood if you cannot safely leave the flooded area
  • Do not drive in low-lying areas where flooding may occur

If your basement floods:

  • Never step into a flooded basement or other room if water may be in contact with electrical outlets, appliances or cords. The water could be energized and could shock or electrocute you.
  • Stay away from trees and downed power wires. Watch these Toronto Hydro videos to learn more about downed power lines and what to do if a power line falls on your car.
  • From June to Labour Day, the City of Toronto takes daily water samples from the supervised beaches across the city and tests for E. coli bacteria. When E. coli levels are high Toronto Public Health posts warning signs against swimming. Visit the SwimSafe website to learn more about beach safety.
  • The public should not swim during and after storms, floods, or heavy rainfall. Cloudy water can be an indicator of high levels of bacteria that may pose a risk to human health.

For more information:

Riverine flooding:

After Extreme Rain or Flooding

The damage to your home from a flood can be overwhelming. The following resources can help guide you through the clean-up process after flooding has occurred:

Never enter a flooded area in your home or business due to a potential electrical shock hazard from electrically powered natural gas appliances or other electrical sources which may cause severe injury or death. Follow these flooding and natural gas safety tips for more information.

Programs and Incentives:

Health emergencies may be caused by the spread of communicable diseases and contaminants in air, food or water.

Contact your family doctor or health care provider immediately if you suspect that you or any member of your family has been exposed to a communicable disease.

  • Follow quarantine instructions issued by public health officials

Preventative Measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve
  • Vaccinations may be available to help prevent the spread of disease

For more information visit Toronto Public Health.

Power failures and utility disruptions can be caused by failures in the system or external events such as severe weather. A power outage may last from a few minutes to a few days. Prolonged power outages in extreme hot or cold weather may put your health and safety at risk.

Conveniences we enjoy, such as elevators and running water, may be affected during a power outage.  Your patience is needed and appreciated while these complex issues are resolved.

Toronto Hydro Power Disruption Hotline number is 416-542-8000

Call to report power failures, wires down, power quality problems and to speak to Customer Care.

Power outage centre on the web: OutagesTO.com or follow us on Twitter @TorontoHydro

During an Outage

  • Unplug all appliances (space heaters, toaster ovens, griddles, etc.) that may have been left on at the time of the outage and could ignite when they come back on
  • Unplug computers, televisions, stereos and other electronics to prevent damage caused by power surges (use surge protecting power bars where possible)
  • Turn off stove cook top and oven
  • Turn off the water to the clothes washer and dishwasher if they were in use when the power went out, if possible
  • Leave a light or radio on so you will know when power is restored
  • Never use barbecues, propane or kerosene heaters, or portable generators indoors
  • Never leave candles unattended

During an extended power outage, your building’s property management
staff or community organizations, such as the Canadian Red Cross, might
visit you at home to make sure you are safe.

Enbridge Gas Distribution

If you smell natural gas or suspect a leak (smell of rotten eggs), leave the area and call 1-866-763-5427.

Don’t use your telephone or cellular phone. Call from a neighbour’s phone.

Disruptions to the supply of fuel or natural gas can be caused by failures in the system, extreme weather, or external pressures such as financial crisis.

Prolonged supply disruption could have secondary effects on food supply, transportation infrastructure and many other essential services.

Rail is an efficient method of transporting people and freight over long distances. Over 194km of rail threads its way through the City of Toronto. Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) are both national freight services and together own the majority of the rail network in Toronto. Rail safety is governed at the federal level through Transport Canada (TC) and the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).

Dangerous Goods Shipment Information

Pursuant to Transport Canada Protective Direction 36, public disclosure of danger goods shipments requires railways to provide annual aggregated dangerous goods information regarding dangerous goods shipments that move through municipalities. The City has worked to make this information available publicly and consistently.

Public Access to Information

Rail companies are now required to provide information to the public about the dangerous goods that are transported through the City. This is implemented through Protective Direction 36, one of the tools used by Transport Canada to regulate rail transportation.

In 2017, dangerous goods made up less than 10 per cent of the total shipments for CN (8.9 per cent) and CP in 2016 (9.71 per cent). The largest dangerous good transferred by each company was Liquefied Petroleum Gases for CN (24.9 per cent) and Alcohol, N.O.S. for CP in 2016 (28.1 per cent). The City of Toronto has taken measures to ensure information is made public to residents. To view a list of top products classified as dangerous goods for the municipality, please view the following document:

CN Rail: Public Report on Dangerous Goods Transported in Toronto 2017

*This information has been made available through Transport Canada.

Toronto’s neighbouring municipality of Pickering is home to the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.  Although the risk of a nuclear power accident is very low, the City of Toronto has a plan in place to deal with this type of event.

The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is located at about 35 kilometers east of Toronto (City Hall) on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. It is owned and operated by Ontario Power Generation and has been generating electricity for the province since 1971. The Pickering nuclear facility has eight Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) nuclear reactors. Each reactor can produce 540 megawatts of electricity. To learn more about how nuclear energy is produced at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, visit the Ontario Power Generation website.

The chance of a serious accident at a nuclear facility in Ontario is very low.

Visit the Province of Ontario website for more information on what to do in the event of a nuclear incident at a reactor in or around Ontario.

The Potential Hazard

There has never been a nuclear emergency since the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station started producing electricity. However, if an accident were to happen at the station, the most probable result would be that its effects would be confined within the station boundary and NOT affect the general public.

The main hazard to people would be breathing in, and being exposed to radioactive particulates that are released as an airborne plume from the nuclear station.

While very unlikely, there are two potential emergency scenarios that could occur.

  • Controlled Release
    The first is an incident which would result in a warning period of at least two days when a build-up of radioactive materials warrants a controlled release into the environment.  This gives people enough time to leave the area within 10 km of the nuclear station before any radioactive materials are released out of the station.   Radioactive doses to people and environmental contamination would be at low levels.
  • Severe Accident
    An even less likely scenario is a more severe accident which can cause higher levels of radioactive contamination to people and the environment. There may be little or no time for people to leave the affected area before radioactive materials are released from the nuclear station. Radiation doses would be higher. The area that could be affected may be beyond 10 km from the nuclear station. The environment could be much more contaminated with radioactivity, over larger areas and a longer period of time.

Protective Measures

The specific steps people can take to protect themselves from radioactive materials will be determined at the time of the emergency. They would be announced over television, radio and the internet by the Province of Ontario and implemented with the help of the City of Toronto, Region of Durham and other communities as required.

Protective measures may be needed for people who live, study or work within 10 km of the nuclear station. In the City of Toronto, this means locations east of Morningside Avenue to the border with the City of Pickering, Steeles Avenue to Lake Ontario. This area is called the Primary Zone, and includes the City of Pickering and Town of Ajax.

Protective measures that may be directed by the Province include:

  • Leaving the areas within the Primary Zone
  • Staying indoors
  • Taking a dose of Potassium Iodide but only when directed by the Province

When taken at the right time, Potassium Iodide pills prevent or reduce the absorption of radioactive Iodine into the thyroid gland.

Potassium Iodide pills do not protect other parts of the body from any other radiation.

Special care is required if Potassium Iodide pills are given to young children. Please consult your family doctor for more information.

During a nuclear emergency, Potassium Iodide pills will be available at Reception-Evacuee Centres that will be set up at various locations in the Greater Toronto Area.

If you are outside the 10km zone, but within 50km of a nuclear station, you are eligible for free KI pills. Although you will not be receiving KI Pills as part of the eligible zone mailout, you can order the pills on-line.

More information is available at www.preparetobesafe.ca or by contacting  Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

‘Red Page’ – Nuclear Emergency Information

Public safety has been a goal and success story for the Canadian nuclear industry. Canadian reactors are built and operated safely. While the chance of a major nuclear emergency is highly unlikely, it makes sense to know what to do if it becomes necessary. For your information and safety, a ‘Red Page’ has been developed by Emergency Management Ontario, the City of Toronto, Durham Region, the City of Pickering, the Town of Clarington and Ontario Power Generation. It provides instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency at Pickering Nuclear.

The main message to remember is: Go. Listen. Follow.

  • Go inside and turn on your radio or television
  • Listen to media reports for instructions from the Province on what to do
  • Follow the directions provided by the Province

The Red Page is part of a public awareness program for residents and businesses located in the eastern parts of Toronto, within 10 km of Pickering Nuclear, near the Pickering border. The Red Page includes telephone numbers and internet links for more information. Please print this Red Page (English version)(French version) and keep it with your telephone directory, so that you can find it easily.

The Red Page is also available from the City of Toronto in Chinese, Farsi, Punjabi, Tamil and Urdu. Please call 311 for translation.

The City of Toronto, Province of Ontario and OPG work together to continually improve emergency plans. Staff from police, fire, emergency medical services, public health, transit and volunteer organizations routinely train together to deal with nuclear and other emergencies.

For more information

Fires and explosions can cause extensive damage to property through smoke and burn damage. They can commonly result in evacuations of large numbers of people, closure of roads, homes or businesses, and even water damage from sprinkler systems or fire hoses.

High-rise buildings are designed to be more fire-safe than the average single-family dwelling. Floors and ceilings are constructed with fire-resistant materials and are separated into fire compartments. However, in the event of a fire, there are a number of things you can do to protect your family and your property.

Preventive Measures:

  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home and outside all bedrooms
  • Regularly check the batteries and replace twice each year
  • Prepare and practice your escape plan by identifying all exits and a place outside your home for family members to meet if you have to evacuate quickly

In the event of fire:

  • Sound fire alarm and alert others
  • Leave the building via the nearest exit, closing all doors behind you
  • Do not use the elevator
  • Call 9-1-1 (don’t assume this has been done)
  • If you cannot leave the building, stay close to the floor and cover your mouth and nose to avoid inhaling smoke
  • Move to the nearest window or balcony
  • Wave a piece of cloth to attract attention from emergency services personnel
  • Meet the firefighters when they arrive and tell them where the fire is