We’ve written a lot about the devastating outcomes of the recent California wildfires and the choking smoke those events created across many states.
For example, there was a wildfire breakout in 2017 when trees hit PG&E power lines around the Napa area. It burned over 100,000 acres and 1,475 structures. People all over the area were forced to evacuate (read more about that event and others in our Survival Scout here).
And more recently, the Camp Fire in November 2018 virtually destroyed the town of Paradise, California, and killed 85 people.
But today, we’re not covering how to prepare for a fire or how to ensure healthy air quality with purifiers, like we have in the past.
The big news for is a recent announcement by PG&E that they will be temporarily cutting the power supply to an eighth of California’s population for up to five days.
Of course, knowing that a power outage is temporary, controlled, and on-purpose has an advantage over an outage caused by disasters, negligence, or faulty infrastructure. But it’s still frustrating for many, nonetheless. Any relatively lengthy power outage means that your food supply, safety, medical equipment, and water purification systems can be significantly affected.
With the release of this news, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, said, "I’m worried, we’re all worried about it for the elderly. We’re worried about it because we could see people’s power shut off not for a day or two but potentially a week." We should all share his concern.
Let’s dive in. I’m going to share what exactly these power cuts will mean for citizens, why they are happening, and how to prepare for a loss of power, whether it be planned or unplanned.
California Wildfires and PG&E
As wildfires have intensified and become increasingly deadly in the past few years, PG&E has been under intense scrutiny.
According to the New York Times, “Five of the 10 most destructive fires in California since 2015 have been linked to PG&E’s electrical network.”
Regulators discovered that in many cases, the power company violated state law or didn’t do enough to ensure their equipment was safe and risk-free of starting fires.
For example, the Camp fire started when a PG&E live wire broke free, and within hours, the region was engulfed in flames.
Safety Measures & Planned Outages
PG&E has admitted that it can’t always fulfill its basic job of delivering electricity both safely and reliably. And as the climate in Northern California becomes increasingly drier, the company has been slow in taking steps to make the grid sturdier.
In January, the company sought bankruptcy protection, citing more than $30 billion in potential damages from fires linked to its equipment. And the company has realized that, in order to mitigate the risks and avoid deadly disasters, it needs to make necessary changes.
However, those changes aren’t going to make life easy for many California residents.
The company shared that, when dangerously high winds arise in fire-prone areas, it will cut off power to avoid potential fires. And it says it could do this for as long as five days!
Some 5.4 million people reside in these fire-prone areas serviced by PG&E. Although the company is doing what it deems necessary to avoid disaster, it’s causing a new problem to arise. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “communities now worry that these blackouts will put people in danger, especially the sick and elderly, and cause financial losses with slim hope of compensation.”
For example, the company ran a series of tests last October when it cut power to a few small communities for two days. Emergency officials had to quickly check on elderly residents who relied on electric medical devices, and grocers were forced to get rid of spoiled inventory. No power, no refrigeration. Dylan Feik, who was Calistoga city manager shares, PG&E is “essentially shifting all of the burden, all of the losses onto everyone else.”
The company shared that it is trying to figure out how to avoid “stranding medically vulnerable residents and is working with local authorities to try to ensure water, traffic lights and phone services aren’t shut off.” But even so, as Aaron Johnson, the PG&E vice president in charge of the program shared, “We simply don’t have the luxury, given the extreme weather conditions we are seeing, to wait to get it perfect.”
As a community of Survival Scout readers who prepare, we know all too well that this is what tends to happen in many unfortunate scenarios, and we can’t depend on our government or service providers such as PG&E to look out for us.
How to Prepare for Planned Outages
The example of PG&E in California is something we can all learn from. Power outages can and will happen with little to no notice. Even planned outages can happen in any state for one reason or another.
Here are five tips to keep in mind when preparing for an outage--whatever the cause may be:
#1: Have a dry food storage backup: When the power goes out, your fridge will only stay cold for a limited amount of time, maybe a day or two at most. And stores will close if they don’t have backup generators. Stock up on an emergency supply of dry foods, and consider growing and storing your own as well.
#2: Use fuel, solar, and battery-powered appliances: A lot of the electricity-based resources we use daily are taken for granted. However, battery, solar-powered, or hand-crank devices such as radios and flashlights can provide light and information to your family for several days or weeks.
#3: Have a backup portable generator on hand: Backup generators can come in handy to power the refrigerator, keep the lights on, keep medical devices working, and will even power a small space heater in some cases.
#4: Understand alternative water purification techniques: When power goes, your purified water supply is also often compromised. Therefore, stock up on water purification alternatives, such as a Survival Spring personal water filter, gravity-powered water filtration unit, or germicidal tablets.
#5: Explore Solutions for Nonfunctioning Septic Systems: If you use a septic system, your toilet will be out of commission during a blackout. Conserve your water until power is restored--this means avoid flushing the toilet until it’s absolutely necessary. As a backup, portable toilets or pit toilets can come in handy for longer-term blackout scenarios.
If you live in areas of California threatened by these potential blackouts by PG&E, I am sorry to hear it. Even if you aren’t affected by this news, we are all at risk of outages, and it’s important to know how to prepare and what to do in these worst-case scenarios.
Have a great weekend and stay safe! Things in the world are certainly getting more interesting.
My Patriot Supply