Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Hazard Identification Report 2019 - Section H - Supply and Distribution Hazards


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Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Program

Hazard Identification Report 2019
Section H: Supply and Distribution Hazards

Office of the Fire Marshal & Emergency Management


The Hazard Report contains information profiles for hazards, including a high-level overview of possible consequences. It is divided into 10 parts; an introduction and 9 sub-sections labelled A-I as follows:

  1. Agriculture and Food
  2. Environmental
  3. Extraterrestrial
  4. Hazardous Materials
  5. Health
  6. Public Safety
  7. Structural
  8. Supply and Distribution
  9. Transportation

Communications Failure

Go to next hazard: Electrical Outage (Power Outage)


Events where loss of standard radio, mobile or landline telecommunications, Internet, or satellite-based networks or devices results in communications failure.


Telecommunications assets consist of any public or private electronic device used for the purposes of message delivery.

Communications can take many forms, from organization to distributed public communication systems. Some critical examples include:

  • Emergency services and 9-1-1 operations
  • Civic Services and 24/7 call centres (e.g. 2-1-1 service, 3-1-1 service)
  • Exclusive or corporate communication systems used by critical infrastructure owners and operators.
  • Widespread outages linked to digital cellular networks

The Telecom sector in Canada is heavily regulated and supervised by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Telecom Critical infrastructure is also under the control of the Federal Ministry of Economic Development. The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development has close ties with their Federal counterparts with regards to consultations, developmen, and investments in this sector.

Telecommunications failure may have a significant impact on a community since nearly every aspect of modern life is dependent on such infrastructure. Economic and national security, as well as emergency response and recovery, relies on the assets and operations of telecommunications infrastructure. Disruption to telecommunications systems, regardless of the triggering incident, can lead to technological and financial losses, or even loss of life.

A Telecom infrastructure failure may consist of a localized, province-wide, or nationwide disruption of the hardware, programs, Internet or supporting infrastructure. Failure of any one of these elements could impact the entire system, though the criticality of assets to the wider system varies substantially. Telecom infrastructure may fail in any of its subsectors: wireline (traditional copper wires, cable), wireless, satellite, and hosted internet services.

Failure can result from the following exposures:

  • Physical: consists of possible damage to physical components of the system.
  • Capacity: consists of possible overload of available resources resulting in services slowing or shutting down.
  • Virtual: Consists of possible digital impacts to servers, cloud-based systems, networks or other digital systems that undermine the confidentiality, integrity, and/or availability of information or network access.
  • Software or hardware errors: Mechanical or digital failures. E.g. software bugs or corruption, component breakdown.

Additionally, both solar storms and electromagnetic pulses (EMP) can interrupt digital communications signals and damage satellites. These hazards can both interrupt GPS and communications systems or lead to radio blackouts[1].

Spatial Scale

Spatial Scale: A communications emergency has the potential to be widespread, though more frequently it is extremely limited in scale due to our many possible modes of digital communication, and diverse communications infrastructure.

Timing: There is no particular time at which this hazard is more likely to occur, though stress from environmental conditions is predictable.

Warning: It is unlikely that there will be warning in advance of a communications emergency, unless it is expected because of inclement weather. Such widespread occurrences are not typical for planned outages and would put a great deal of stress on normal social, economic, cultural and other vital interactions.

Potential Impacts

The potential impacts of a communications emergency could include:

  • Loss of emergency services connectivity.
  • Multi-modal transport disruptions, the need for detours or re-routing. May strain transportation management resources and cause transportation delays. 
  • Property damage, the need for repair. Possible impact on Critical Infrastructure.
  • Disruption or closure of government, business or financial institutions.
  • Disruption of navigation and other satellite services.
  • Strain on emergency services and response resources.

Secondary Hazards

Secondary hazards associated with a communications failute may include:

  • Civil disorder
  • Supply & Distribution emergencies
  • Cyber Threats (including data loss)
  • Public Transportation System Failure
  • Transportation incidents, due to loss of navigation systems

Past Incidents

While there have been limited disruptions to communication systems, there has never been an emergency caused by communications failure in Ontario. While the 2003 blackout resulted in secondary limited disruption, the telephone network generally kept working.

However, wireless network operators were challenged by heavy network traffic as large numbers of people simultaneously tried to reach friends, family and others in their network. Many resorted to landlines or to internet services in order to get through.

Provincial Risk Statement

The impact of a communications emergency depends on the level of disruption.

Human Impacts

Communications failure may result in loss of capacity to call for emergency aid in some circumstances. 

Social Impacts

It is likely that some loss or interruption of social support networks will occur in the event of a widespread communications emergency, particularly if the effects are long term and battery capacities are exceeded. Psychological effects, including feelings of isolation and anxiety, may occur.

Property Damage

Property damage is not generally associated with communications emergencies.

Critical Infrastructure Disruptions

As all critical infrastructure is reliant to some degree on communications services, a widespread and prolonged communications emergency could have a devastating impact. Many critical services have back-up capacity, including but not limited to short-wave radio and manual processes, which can help mitigate this risk.

Environmental Damage

Property damage is not associated with communications emergencies.


As economic systems and services are reliant on communications services, a widespread and prolonged communications emergency could have a devastating impact.

Electrical Outage (Power Outage)

Go to previous hazard: Communications Failure

Go to next hazard: Food Shortage


A disruption of electrical power generation, transmission or distribution, leading to severe concerns.


Power outage is perhaps one of the most widely relatable and common types of hazard. Damage to the electricity system can adversely affect large areas of the Province, including municipalities or regions.

The failure of power, especially widespread outages, can have a significant impact on local economic and financial activities. Widespread and prolonged outages would cause significant disruption to a broad range of services, as Canada is extremely dependent on power supply. Outages would also drastically heighten the vulnerability of those dependent on life-sustaining equipment (such as dialysis machines or other machines at home or in hospitals.

As of March 2018, Ontario's installed generation capacity totals 37,045MW, which consists of 35% nuclear, 28% gas/oil, 23% hydro, 12% wind, 1% solar and 1% biofuel, according to Ontario Power Generation as of March 2018.[2][3]

Disruption to critical infrastructure, including but not limited to transportation, water supply, and communications services could put public safety at risk. Interdependency between the energy sectors and with other critical infrastructure sectors (CIs) can further compound this risk. For example, the Health sector depends on electricity for life-support machines and other specialized equipment, the oil sector is heavily dependent on electricity transmission and distribution of product, and almost every sector depends on some form of electricity.

Some factors that have caused electrical outage include:

  • The disruption of distribution or transmission network
  • Constraints in production or infrastructure capacity
  • Intentional attack or sabotage of electrical components or systems (including cyber attack, sabotage)
  • Natural hazards can disrupt the supply or cause demand to increase.
  • Failure of mechanical, digital, or operational processes/systems
  • Loss of the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
  • Human error
  • Oversight in operational processes or systems.

To measure the reliability of a power grid, two main concepts are important; the connectivity of the network (static components), and the ability of the network to transmit a level of flow (dynamic). A particular strength of the power distribution system is the resiliency resulting from redundancy of the networked power system, and capacity to tolerate relatively high design loads. Given the large number of nodes and the immense number of assets in Ontario, it is extremely difficult to conceive of an emergency significant enough to disable a significant portion of the power distribution network for an extended period. In addition, The Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Ontario Electricity Emergency Plan designates critical facilities such as hospitals and oil refineries as “Priority Customer Loads” in the event of an outage, to reduce impact.

Since the 2003 blackout, standards and regulation of the systems and networks have dramatically improved. The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) complies with all applicable North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure protection standards, which include Cybersecurity. The electricity sector is the only one with mandatory and enforceable cybersecurity standards. The Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines works with the IESO to address the integration and operational challenges of a complex mix of generation.

Improvements also include[4]:

  • Replacement or addition of new infrastructure
  • Mandatory and enforceable standards for the bulk power system
  • Creation of an international electric reliability organization (ERO)
  • Improved standard for vegetation management
  • Increased emphasis on situational awareness
  • Enhanced operator training; and
  • New and improved situational awareness tool and technology and better information sharing between systems

Demand pressures continue to rise, including environmental pressure and system age. Ontario’s power distribution and management stakeholders utilize many tools, including Geographic Information Systems and dynamic analysis to improve efforts in infrastructure design and risk assessment.[5][6]

Potential Impacts

Widespread and prolonged outage could include any of the following[7]:

  • Disruption of navigation and other satellite services.
  • Disruption or closure of government, business or financial institutions.
  • Spoilage of food and medicine due to a lack of refrigeration.
  • Possible loss of electronic payment and debit machines. The need for financial assistance.
  • Untreated or potentially intensified illness or death. May strain the health system.
  • Multi-modal transport disruptions, the need for detours or re-routing. May strain transportation management resources and cause transportation delays. 
  • The need for emergency shelter services.
  • The need to evacuate or shelter in place.
  • The need for emergency provision of essential needs, including food.

Many of these effects carry extremely serious potential consequences, secondary effects to other critical infrastructure. While many such systems have backup procedures in place for operation in the absence of primary power supply, a long-term outage would likely challenge these measures.

Secondary hazards

Secondary hazards associated with an Electrical outage may include:

  • Civil disorder
  • Utility failure
  • Data loss
  • Transportation issues

Past Incidents

North America, 2003: A massive electrical blackout began with an outage on August 13, 2003 at First Energy's Eastlake Unit 5. This 680-megawatt coal generation plant located near Cleveland, Ohio, tripped off, resulting in outages to 531 units at 263 power plants, and 50 million people in eight states and two provinces, including Ontario.

The 2003 blackout is currently used as a worst-case scenarios utilized in modelling reliability and vulnerability for many utilities. This incident is an example not just of failure, but of cascading failure on a large geographical scale.

Provincial Risk Statement

People in Ontario are especially reliant on electricity sources in order to maintain their current quality of life. Changing climate conditions and aging infrastructure remain the most pressing challenges to electricity system resiliency.

Human impacts

Direct impacts due to Electrical outage are not possible, but the outage of key equipment or life-sustaining services could cause life-threatening situations, particularly in a widespread outage. While hospitals would have measures to limit loss of life or undue harm in the event of an electrical energy disruption, those living at home with dependence on dialysis, oxygen pumps or other critical equipment would be vulnerable to injury or death due to loss of power. Additionally, the climate of the area affected and the time of year can increase the risk of public safety impacts since heating and cooling require electricity.

Social Impacts

Social impacts can result from an Electrical outage. In particular, if an outage extends over 24 hours. People may lose their capacity to remain in their homes if their reliance on electricity affects cooking, heating water, and refrigeration of food. If this occurs, the ability of communities to support each other will be a key determinant of their ability to remain independent, and their reliance on government or response agency support.

Property Damage

Property damage is not likely due to an Electrical outage.

Critical Infrastructure Disruptions

While negative economic impacts are likely to be the most common outcome, an energy emergency could negatively impact other critical infrastructure, transportation and communications, but depends on the duration of the emergency.

Environmental Damage

An Electrical outage is not likely to result in environmental damage although the initial event that triggers the emergency might have a negative impact. A secondary impact may be excess waste generated by loss of power causing food spoilage.

Economic Impacts

The economy could be quickly and seriously impacted by an Electrical outage, as businesses are generally unable to operate. Additionally, if the supply is tight or not sufficient to meet demand, then energy market prices will rise as more expensive peaking facilities, electricity imports or demand mitigation measures are called upon to make up for the shortfall.

Food Shortage

Go to previous hazard: Electrical Outage (Power Outage)

Go to next hazard: Medical Drug, Blood Product, or Supplies Shortage


Food Shortages result from events adversely affecting the food supply through changes in food security, food quality, or food safety, which threaten the wellbeing of the public.

This also includes events which result from disruption of agricultural products or other food supply.


The Food supply system is complex, but can be understood as a cycle consisting of:[8]

  • Food Production
  • Distribution and Aggregation
  • Processing
  • Marketing
  • Markets and purchasing
  • Preparation and Consumption
  • Resource and Waste Recovery

A number of domestic and international pressures influence the health of this system, and therefore food supply to Ontario. At a high level, these can be divided into three broad categories:

  • Source Issues: The supply of food is affected, thus reducing the amount of food available.
  • Distribution Issues: The food is available, but the system of distribution is unable to deliver it to people who need it.
  • Processing Issues: Raw food products are available, but the systems of facilities required to process the food into consumable products is stressed or unavailable.
  • Pricing Issues: Food cost is affected, thus resulting in affordability and food security issues.

Pressures on the food supply are varied, and include oil prices, crop diversion (food diverted to other uses, such as biofuel) changing climate, and financial pressures. Aside from occurring as a primary hazard, food system disruptions are frequently experienced as a secondary hazard in other emergencies. This could include weather-related hazards, widespread power outages or others.

During a severe food shortage the responsibility for addressing food supply issues may be unclear, especially if the effects are widespread. Emergency concerns could be focused on the acquisition or distribution of emergency food, as well as the restoration of regular supply.

Communities are more vulnerable to food security emergencies if they have existing low food security. Food security is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.[9] Food access, availability can be a particular issue in remote communities in Ontario, including communities with seasonal road access restrictions, or those that are fly-in-only communities throughout the year. The cost of providing food to such communities can also be far higher because of challenges related to remoteness, frequent inclement weather and other factors.

Food security concerns are distributed among all levels of community and government; for example, household food insecurity is a local public health problem but its causes are often rooted in poverty, and thus potential interventions may lie in social policy.[10]

Spatial Scale, Timing and Warning Period

Spatial Scale: Generally limited to a local area, given the diverse system available for food supply. However, isolated communities are far more exposed and vulnerable to the risk of food shortages. Issues of food security are fundamentally linked to the vulnerability and exposure of communities to the effects of food supply and distribution disruption.

Timing: May last months or years following an initial incident, creating significant food access issues, especially in food insecure populations.

Warning: varies

Potential Impacts

Some of the potential emergency management considerations associated with an food emergency may include:

  • Reputational Damage.
  • Disruption or closure of government, business or financial institutions.
  • Illness or death. May strain the health system and response resources.
  • The need for import or export control measures. May result in loss of income.

Secondary Hazards

Potential secondary hazards may include:

  • Civil Disruption
  • Humanitarian crisis
  • Geopolitical Pressures

Past Incidents

There have been no reported incidents relating to widespread food supply and distribution.

Provincial Risk Statement

Human Impacts

Food supply is integral to the health and wellbeing of people in Ontario. A disruption of this supply and distribution network is unlikely, given the diversity and size of the distribution networks across Ontario and Canada, but both illness and death are potential consequences of a widespread food supply emergency. 

Social Impacts

It is likely that communities will experience some secondary effects on social support networks in the event of a widespread food supply or distribution emergency.

Property Damage

Property damage is not associated with food supply and distribution emergencies.

Critical Infrastructure Disruptions

As all critical infrastructures are all reliant to some degree on the provision of food to employees and others that support services. A widespread and prolonged food supply or distribution emergency could have a serious impact on the ability of Critical infrastructure to operate.

Environmental Damage

Environmental damage is not associated with food supply and disruption emergencies.


As economic systems and services are reliant to some degree on the provision of food to employees and others that support services, a widespread and prolonged emergency could have a devastating impact.

Medical Drug, Blood Product, or Supplies Shortage

Go to previous hazard: Food Shortage

Go to next hazard: Petroleum Product Shortage


A medical drug, blood product or supplies shortage emergency refers to a disruption in the manufacture, supply and/or distribution of blood products, drugs and/or medical supplies, including many that are needed for life-threatening conditions.[11][12]


While shortages of medical drugs, blood products or supplies are common, their frequency and duration may be increasing. Shortages occur when the supply is inadequate to meet the current or projected user demand. More critical shortages occur when the absence of alternative treatment options impacts patient care.


Disruption to the supply of medical Equipment and resources may includemanufacturing problems, financial decisions related to individual products, communication problems related to distribution, unanticipated demand and regulatory/enforcement issues which may delay access to additional stock.

Medical Drugs

Many organizations, including the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists and Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPA), have expressed concern about drug shortages, particularly for drugs that do not have therapeutic alternatives.[13]Many pharmacists in Canada have experienced drug shortages with a negative effect on the health and wellbeing of patients.[14] Such effects included the following:

  • Patients are stressed, confused, angry, frustrated, and experience a loss of trust in medication and the pharmacist
  • Disruption in the continuity of care
  • The alternative drugs have been less effective, especially as 3rd or 4th line alternatives are used
  • Antibiotics have been in short supply
  • There has been no alternative medications available
  • Alternatives cause side effects, allergies, and/or adverse events
  • Patients have stopped taking the medications

Health Canada, and partners throughout the pharmacy and healthcare systems, recognize the negative impact of drug shortages on patients, health care professionals and the health care system, and work together to build a more open and secure drug supply system.[15]

Mitigation efforts include Food and Drug Regulations, which require drug sellers to report when they are not able to meet demand for a product or when they stop selling a product. This information is recorded on the Drug Shortages Canada website. Ontario also maintains a Drug Stock monitoring program between stakeholders and partners.[16][17]

In addition, the Provincial/Territorial Drug Shortages Task Team (PT DSTT) was formally established by PT Deputy Ministers of Health in 2011 and includes representatives from the respective provincial/territorial governments, regional health authorities (RHA), and group purchasing organizations (GPO), to help identify, prevent, alleviate and resolve drug shortage situations. Ontario is a member of this table with other Provinces and Territories.

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) is also in regular contact with manufacturers, Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), hospitals, GPO representatives, associations/organizations such as Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) and the Ontario Pharmacists Associations (OPA) and the PT DSTT to identify any products that may be at risk of shortages.

Blood Products

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is the national blood supplier to all provinces and territories in Canada, excluding Quebec. It ensures the best practice for inventory management and equitable distribution of blood and blood products across Canada, including Ontario.

Despite all the efforts of Canadian Blood Services, the Ministry of health and long Term Care, and many others to ensure undisrupted supply of blood, there still exists a risk of blood shortage. This can be due to labour disruptions, information system and transportation chain failures, communicable disease outbreaks, major weather disruptions, shortage of donors, or mass trauma events.

To help Ontario respond to such a blood supply shortage quickly and effectively, the Ontario Contingency Planning Working Group (CPWG) updated the ‘Ontario Contingency Plan for the Management of Blood Shortages', which outlines roles and required actions for key stakeholders and hospitals during a shortage. The purpose of this document is to provide a framework to Ontario hospitals and other key stakeholders to prepare themselves for a consistent and coordinated response to primarily four different levels of blood inventory to minimize impact on patient care and ensure equitable distribution of health care and resources to Ontarians.

Spatial Scale, Timing and Warning Period

Spatial Scale: Drug shortages may result in widespread effects within the communities or regions of Ontario. Such emergencies are likely to be national or even international in scale. However, effects are limited to certain specific groups of people that require the drug in question. For this reason, the effects are not usually significant.

Timing: May occur at any time of the year. Such shortages could also occur as a result of emergent disease or infectious disease outbreaks, as vaccines and treatments are developed.

Warning Period: In some cases, warning may be possible; particularly if there is good data on the availability and supply issues associated with critical drugs. Manufacturers must report an anticipated drug shortage, a discontinuation of a drug six months in advance, and any previously unreported shortage within five days of learning about it.

Potential impacts

The impacts of medical drug, blood product or supply shortage emergencies can include:

  • Untreated or potentially intensified illness or death. May strain the health system.
  • Reputational damage.
  • Strain on emergency services and response resources (depending on shortage).
  • The need for import or export control measures. May result in loss of income.
  • The need for prevention and control measures.

Secondary Hazards

  • Impacts to health infrastructure and capacity

Past Incidents

  • Injectable Sodium Bicarbonate, 2017: Existing shortage and subsequent recall of Injectable Sodium Bicarbonate used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions including metabolic acidosis, in cardiac surgery, as an antidote to certain poisons, in cases of organ failure and in some types of cancer chemotherapy.
  • APO-Divalproex, 2016: Shortage of APO-Divalproex, a generic form of Epival made by Apotex, which helps control seizures.
  • Painkillers, antibiotics and anesthetics, 2011: Sandoz manufacturing plant in Quebec scaled back production of certain painkillers, antibiotics and anesthetics. This led to interruption of the supply of medication, primarily injectable medications, which affected some elective surgeries.

Provincial Risk Statement

Human impacts

The risk of health concerns is experienced only by those who require the drug, blood, or supply in treatment. The effects can be life threatening on an individual, person-by-person basis. It could increase exposure to life-threatening conditions for the wider population of those already needing treatment.

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is involved with health system partners to apply an emergency action plan to help the health care system respond to evolving situations.

Social Impacts

Social networks are more likely to be a great help in preparation and response to this hazard, particularly in helping to identify and support those experiencing health concerns as a result of drug shortages.

Property Damage

This hazard could increase strain on healthcare providers, but usually in limited cases.

Critical Infrastructure Disruptions

Effects on critical infrastructure are limited, though there may be an increased need for specialized health education messaging and healthcare services. Secondary effects in a widespread shortage may be severe.

Environmental Damage

The environment is not affected.


Available alternatives to Medical Drugs, blood products or supplies may be more costly and have an impact on a publicly funded program, potentially causing patients to incur out of pocket expenses.

Petroleum Product Shortage

Go to previous hazard: Medical Drug, Blood Product, or Supplies Shortage

Go to next hazard: Water or Wastewater Disruption


A Petroleum Product Shortage emergency refers to a disruption in the supply, refinement or transmission of petroleum products such as diesel, heating fuels, and propane, gasoline, oil or natural gas.


There are many processes and facilities that if disrupted could result in a fuel emergency. This includes generation, transmission and/or distribution failures, or technology failures (including in connected sectors or systems).

All Ontarians rely on petroleum based fuels for transportation (gasoline, natural gas, propane, and diesel fuel) and some rely on heating oil for space heating. An extended disruption of oil product supply could affect the health and safety of citizens. All critical infrastructure sectors rely on fuel for their continuous operations.

The Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the emergency management office has developed a Provincial Emergency Fuel Distribution Protocol in the event of a declared Provincial emergency with a fuel shortage. In addition, each of the major oil companies operating in Ontario (Imperial Oil, Shell, Suncor) has emergency response plans for its operations. The Canadian Fuel Association represents these companies. There are two main natural gas distribution companies operating in Ontario; Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas are extremely involved in emergency planning at the local, regional and provincial level.

The plan outlines how communities and designated critical infrastructure (CI) sectors will secure prioritized fuel distribution in the event of a shortage in a declared Provincial emergency. This Plan was conceived after the 2003 major electricity outage when the oil sector was impacted and some CIs were unable to locate fuel.

Shortages could also result in transportation and communication disruptions which could put public safety and other services at risk. The climate of the area affected and the time of year can also increase the risk of public safety impacts.

Some of the factors that have caused or contributed to petroleum product shortages in the past include:

  • The disruption of transportation routes or vehicles.
  • Constraints in production and refining capacity which increase the potential of supply not meeting demand.
  • Uncertain climates (both political and natural) in some producer countries may hinder the exploration and development of resources.
  • Geopolitical tensions and terrorism result in uncertainty as to the future availability of supply.
  • Weather hazards can disrupt the supply or cause demand to increase.
  • Human error
  • Oversight in operational processes/systems
  • Failure of mechanical, digital or operational processes/systems
  • Hoarding of fuel

Natural gas

The main fuel used in the residential sector for water heating, and in the commercial sector to generate electricity. Converted into compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG)). Ontario produces less than 1% of its natural gas requirements. The majority of Ontario’s natural gas supply is imported from Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia via pipelines. An increasing amount of Ontario’s natural gas is being sourced in the U.S. It now accounts for around 25% of our requirements[18].

Consumers cannot store natural gas and it must be delivered to homes and businesses as needed. Throughout the year, gas transmission pipelines try to run at close to full capacity and any excess supply of natural gas delivered to Ontario is pumped into underground storage facilities near Sarnia. During the winter months, Ontario’s gas supply is augmented by gas withdrawn from underground storage. 

The two major gas distribution companies operating in Ontario, Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas, have load shedding plans which will impact industrial customers first and residential customers last. There is a mutual aid assistance arrangement between the two utilities and utilities in the US in the event of a significant emergency. Such aid had been utilized a few times in the past.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

Also known as propane. In Ontario, propane is commonly used in rural areas and communities without access to natural gas. Within Ontario, propane is delivered to end users by truck. Distribution facilities of propane may be supplied by truck or (for larger facilities) by rail and have above-ground propane storage tanks.

Gasoline and Diesel

Ontario’s refineries supply just over three quarters of the province’s fuel product needs[19]. The balance of the demand is met through imports into Ontario, primarily from Quebec and offshore and from the Canadian west for Northwestern Ontario. This could create vulnerability in the supply chain. The biofuel sector could also influence the overall supply of fuel, given the significance of O. Reg 97/14 ‘Renewable fuel content requirements for petroleum diesel fuel’.

Potential Impacts

Potential impacts of a fuel supply emergency may include:

  • The need for import or export control measures. May result in loss of income.
  • Disruption or closure of government, business or financial institutions.
  • Strain on emergency services and response resources.

Secondary Hazards

Secondary hazards associated with an Electrical outage may include:

  • Civil unrest
  • A sustained energy crisis may become a humanitarian crisis

Past Incidents

  • Nanticoke, ON 2017: In 2017, three concurrent issues related to gasoline supply led to a shortage in Ontario and Quebec. A fire at Imperial Oil's Nanticoke, ON, a strike by Canadian National Railway workers, and an equipment issue at Shell Canada's Montreal East refinery, resulted in shortages.
  • Texas, 2017: In 2017, Texas experienced a gasoline shortage in the wake of hurricane Harvey. In theory, the gas supply was plentiful, in reserve across the United States. However, fuel was unavailable due to a variety of factors, including damaged infrastructure, flooding, and supply chain issues leading to industry being unable to deliver the fuel to market. There was also disruption on producing wells in the Gulf Coast, and temporary shut-down of regional refineries. As a result, prices surged in anticipation of the hurricane, as well as in the months following.
  • Sarnia, 2011: In 2011 a Shell refinery in Sarnia was shut down for a week longer than scheduled as a result of routine maintenance, causing limited, rotating shortages in certain areas in Toronto, London and Sarnia.
  • Kalamazoo, MI 2010: In July 2010, the Enbridge Line 6B crude oil pipeline ruptured and leaked into the Kalamazoo River. This was one of several pipelines which Ontario and other U.S. jurisdictions relied upon for the supply of crude oil. The incident significantly reduced the amount of crude oil delivered to Ontario refineries from Western Canada. Producers and refiners secured alternative transportation pathways had to make alternative arrangements to secure other sources of supply at a higher cost. 
  • Nanticoke, ON 2007: In February 2007 a major fire at the Nanticoke oil refinery caused significant fuel shortages at service stations for a number of weeks. This situation was aggravated by winter weather conditions and the option of bringing product into Ontario via the St. Lawrence Seaway was not available due to freezing of the Seaway. Fortunately, Northern Ontario was not vulnerable due to the number of stations. 

The following began as a geopolitical crisis, and evolved into a petroleum product shortage:

  • 1973 and 79 Oil Crises: The 1973 crisis began when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) announced it would no longer to ship petroleum to nations that had supported Israel in its conflict with Syria and Egypt. A second major oil crisis was the result of the Iranian Revolution (1978–79). High levels of social unrest severely damaged the Iranian oil industry, leading to a large loss of production and a corresponding global rise in prices. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S, Western Europe and Japan experienced large shortages in petroleum supplies and as a result suffered high prices[20].

Provincial Risk Statement

Ontarians are especially reliant on petroleum products in order to maintain their current quality of life. A large part of this reliance can be attributed to the demands of our climate, lifestyle and urban planning. Most Ontarians rely on natural gas for home heating and are vulnerable to a supply disruption in the winter. Most homes do not have supplementary sources of heat. Businesses, schools and public buildings heated with natural gas may have to be closed during a prolonged outage. 

The reliance of virtually all industries on gasoline, oil and gas fuels means that all sectors have some dependence on this commodity. There is interdependency between the oil & gas sectors with other critical infrastructure sectors (CIs) which can compound the risk. For example, the failure of key electricity supply or digital control systems could be a trigger for this type of disruption. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s National Security Criminal Investigations Unit provides briefing and alerts of possible threats to CI owners and operators, including both physical and cyber threats.

It is not possible to predict every possible cause of an energy emergency, especially since many factors and events on a global scale may influence it.

Human impacts

Human impacts are not likely but could be a secondary effect. For example, natural gas is used for heating and cooling.

Social Impacts

Fuel shortages can put pressures on social networks and support structures.

Property Damage

Property damage is not likely. The most immediate concerns would be; incidents occurring near residential areas, or the disruption of heating fuel in winter causing domestic water pipes to freeze and split.

Critical Infrastructure Disruptions

While negative economic impacts are likely to be the most common impact, an energy emergency could negatively impact other critical infrastructure, transportation and communications.

Environmental Damage

An petroleum product supply disruption is not likely to result in environmental damage although the initial event that triggers the emergency might have a negative impact.


If the supply is not sufficient to meet demand, then prices will rise. While negative economic impacts are likely to be the most common impact of a petroleum product shortage, shortages would also have an immediate and widespread effect on everyday goods, services and activities. This could also include an increase in the price of food.

Water or Wastewater Disruption

Go to previous hazard: Petroleum Product Shortage


The disruption of infrastructure that manages potable water, used wastewater or sewage, causing emergency conditions. This includes any combination of domestic, industrial, or commercial activities, surface runoff or storm water, and any sewer inflow or sewer infiltration.


Regional and municipal water authorities have primary responsibility for drinking water quality for jurisdictions across Ontario, as well as the management of storm water and wastewater. The processes, infrastructure and system requirements for water and wastewater treatment and management are extensive and complex. For simplicity, this profile includes three types of water:

  • Potable Water: Drinking water and all related infrastructure and systems.
  • Wastewater: Any water that has been affected by any human activities, including sewer inflow or sewer infiltration. This could include domestic wastewater from households, municipal wastewater from communities or industrial wastewater from industrial activities. Wastewater can contain physical, chemical and biological pollutants.
  • Storm water: Water that originates during precipitation events and snow/ice melt. The system of drains that helps channel this water is often connected to the wastewater system, in a combined sewer or sanitary sewer.

In many First Nations communities there are several types of water systems with a variety of governance. The Government of Canada’s Clean Water and Wastewater Fund allocated $8.8 million in 2017 for improved water, wastewater and storm water management in First Nation communities across Ontario.[21]

Potable Water

The Clean Water Act and source water protection legislation help to ensure the surface water that supplies municipal drinking water systems remains safe. Ontario has a multi-barrier approach to protect drinking water[22], which is covered more in both the ‘Potable Water Shortage’ and ‘Water Quality’ hazard profiles.

Pressures that would result in low water situations include the interruption of key water distribution systems and Critical Infrastructure, environmental conditions, industrial waste and environmental effects from industry, and water privatization. These threats are a risk to lakes, rivers and groundwater, as well as on the water infrastructure which supplies Ontarians province-wide.

Provision of water is heavily regulated across Canada, including Ontario. At the Jurisdictional level, Municipal Codes often relate to the responsibility of property owners for the safety of the system.

Wastewater (including Storm water)

The definitions for wastewater and sewerage systems, respectively, are as follows:

  • Wastewater systems: Pipes and other infrastructure that manage used water from any combination of domestic, industrial, or commercial activities, surface runoff or storm water.
  • Sewerage: The infrastructure that conveys sewage. A sanitary sewer is part of this system, which transports sewage from houses and commercial buildings through pipes to treatment facilities or disposal. Often includes storm drains, which are designed to drain excess rain and ground water from impervious surfaces such as paved streets.

Wastewater treatment plants across Ontario treat billions of cubic metres of wastewater every year, before releasing it into local waterways. If this water or sewage is not treated, it can lead to the release of dirty and potentially hazardous substances into the environment, including recreational areas and even into potable water supplies. Such events can cause or exacerbate emergency conditions and limit the ability of residents to remain in their neighbourhoods or communities

There are three main levels of wastewater treatment:

  • Primary treatment: basic form of treatment, using a mechanical process to separate solids from the water.
  • Secondary treatment: a combination of physical and biological treatment that removes 95 percent of the total mass of pollutants.
  • Tertiary treatment: is the most advanced treatment, using a series of physical, chemical and biological processes.

Environment Canada published wastewater regulations on July 18, 2012 as a means of regulating untreated and undertreated wastewater, or sewage that is directed into waterways each year. The regulations fall under the Fisheries Act and are enforceable by law. This regulation applies to any system that processes an average daily volume of 100 cubic meters or more of influent.

While wastewater and sewage systems are strictly monitored and regulated in Ontario, there are many communities that have limited infrastructure for managing wastewater and sewage, or have decentralized or independent systems. In some communities, this infrastructure is dependent on generator power or other connected infrastructure in order to operate.

In the event of flooding, severe rainfall or other situations resulting in large volumes of surface water, it is possible for main sewer lines or drainage systems to overflow. In these situations, ‘backflow’ of water from the overloaded line can lead to or exacerbate flooding in connected properties[23]. This is expected to become a greater risk, as storm intensity and frequency are expected to increase.

Spatial Scale, Timing and Warning Period

Spatial Scale:  Wastewater and sewerage incidents can happen at any time of year, though the risk is heightened during times of flooding, heavy precipitation and electrical energy disruption. Based on the type of water and water systems, water issues could affect one building a whole community or even a region.

Timing: varies

Warning: varies

Potential Impacts

Some of the potential emergency management considerations may include:

  • Sewer backup or overflow issues. A risk to human health through biohazard associated with untreated wastewater or sewage.
  • Illness or death. May strain the health system and response resources.
  • The need for prevention and control measures.
  • Need for assurance monitoring of systems.
  • Reputational Damage.

Secondary Hazards

Potential secondary hazards may include:

  • Infectious disease outbreak
  • Civil Disruption
  • Humanitarian Emergency

Past Incidents

While there have been no large-scale incidents relating to wastewater and sewerage, there are routinely sewer backup, overflow, or bypass incidents that result in requests for assistance from provincial emergency resources.

Provincial Risk Statement

Human Impacts

In a wastewater or sewerage incident, there is a possibility of limited secondary effects on the health and wellbeing of the effected population. Should untreated wastewater or sewage make its way into populated areas, this could cause serious concerns for human health, and require extensive cleanup.

Social Impacts

Communities could experience some limited secondary effects on social support networks in the event of a wastewater incident.

Property Damage

Property damage is often associated with wastewater or sewerage issues, particularly in the event of sewer backups.

Critical Infrastructure Disruptions

Sanitation and water supply are considered core components of the ‘basic needs’ outlined in the human rights code and considered vital to the health of any community. If such systems cease to function, there could be serious secondary impacts on other critical infrastructure. This effect could be particularly acute for facilities such as hospitals, that support a large number of particularly vulnerable people.

Environmental Damage

Environmental damage could be extremely severe. Just as untreated wastewater or sewage can have extreme health impacts for people, it can also affect animals and the environment. Releases of untreated sewage in particular have been known to cause extreme stress on the local environment as well as many connected ecosystems.


Economic impacts are likely to be limited to the local area and any facility or operation connected to the affected system.

End Notes

[1] The Met Office, UK:

[2] Note that these figures do not include generators that operate within local distribution service, except for those that participate in the IESO-administered market. Most solar facilities in Ontario are connected to the distribution system.

[3] Independent Electrical Service Operator March 2018,

[4] Government of Canada, National electric grid security and resilience action plan, 2016. Accessed Mar 12, 2019.

[5] Controlling Cascading Failure: Understanding the Vulnerabilities of Interconnected Infrastructures, 2010. Journal of Urban Technology, Volume 9, 2002 - Issue 1.

[6] Inoperability Input-Output Model for Interdependent Infrastructure Sectors. II: Case Studies. 2005. Haimes et al.

[7] Exploring Health and Social Impacts of Climate Change in Toronto 2013.

[8] Centre for Environmental Farming Systems, Cornell University, 2017. Cyclical food system.

[9] World Food Programme (2018)

[10] Food insecurity Policy Research, university of Toronto (2018)

[11] Government of Canada, Drug Shortages in Canada, 2017.

[12] Ontario Contingency plan for the management of blood shortages, 2016.

[13] Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, 2018.

[14] Canadian Drug Shortages Survey. Canadian Pharmacists Association December 2010.

[15] Drug Shortages Canada, 2018.

[16] Drug Shortages Canada, 2018.

[17] Ministry of health and long Term Care, Ontario’s Drug Stock Monitoring Program, 2018.

[18] Ministry of Emergency and Infrastructure, 2017

[19] Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, 2017

[20] Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016.

[21] Better water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure for First Nations across Ontario, 2017.

[22] Government of Ontario, Source Protection, 2018.

[23] Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), 2018.