It was four years ago that Toronto was hit with a winter ice storm and summer thunderstorm that caused massive power disruptions throughout the city. Voluntary guidelines of the time were to provide enough power to evacuate a building, send elevators to the ground floor, operate fire suppression systems and provide limited lighting to hallways and stairwells. This required 15 minutes to a few hours of power.
Voluntary guidelines have since been revised to provide for sustained power which would allow residents to remain in a building for an unlimited period during a power failure. This need for sustained power is likely to increase along with the frequency of severe weather.
One condo building, Grange Condominium, has since updated their power system consistent with the new guidelines. The building has about a dozen power outages a year during which residents have no heat, hot water or electricity. Those unable to navigate stairs become trapped in their home.
Sustained power system upgrades are expensive. Retrofitting at Grange Condominiums cost about $2 million. In place of paying this capital cost, the corporation agreed to a service agreement that includes paying market rates for electricity.