Electric companies are allowed to shut off power throughout their territories when the weather causes high risk of fires sparked by their equipment. During a planned power shut off, landline telephone service may be lost, cell phones are unlikely to work and the internet will not be available. Electric companies are required to provide advance notifications of planned outages to customers, community agencies and first responders.
Here Are Some of the Steps You Can Take to Prepare:
Make Sure You Receive Notifications
You Should Receive 48 and 24 hour warnings from SDG&E, PG&E or Edison through automated calls, texts messages and emails if a shutoff is planned. Be sure to sign up with your utility company and your local emergency agencies to receive as much information as possible.
- Contact your electric company and update your mailing address, landline and cell phone numbers and your email address.
- Community Choice customers who receive bills, metering and maintenance from PG&E, SCE or SDG&E will receive alerts through those companies.
- Sign up for local alerts and warning systems through your local office of Emergency Management for more information.
- Some cities, like Ukiah in Northern California, are not connected to the P&GE grid; those customers must sign up for emergency alerts with local authorities.
- If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information notes the best way to communicate with you.
- Reverse 911 is implemented by the Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies, may only go out to landlines — people wishing to be notified by cell need to sign up to receive them.
If you are a Medical Baseline Customer who requires electricity for medical needs.
You should receive notifications from your utility company, and, if those are not successful, a representative should come to your home if and leave a door hanger.
- Be ready to explain to first responders that you need to evacuate and who and what you need to bring with you. (Service animal, personal aide, medical equipment etc.)
- Contact your city or county government’s emergency management agency or office. Many local offices keep lists of disabled people so they can be helped quickly in an emergency
- Contact your local fire department to find out if it has a Community Resilience Center which serves as a hub for assistance following a disaster. Go to ready.gov to find out if a Community Resilience Center or Emergency Response Team is located in your community.
- Consider going to a friend or relative’s home that has a generator or back up power.
CONSUMER TIP: It is vital to have a back-up supply of important medications, as pharmacies may not have electricity to power their computer systems and registers.
Try to Stay Connected
Customers with POTS, plain, old telephone service that comes through a copper line, often will have service during outages, since the copper lines don’t depend on the power grid. Customers with landlines that are fiber based, either VoIP or cable, need a back-up battery.
- There are some battery back-up power solutions for fiber optic phones, such as service Uninterrupted Power Systems; check with your provider for recommendations.
- Cell phone customers should try to keep their phones charged, although if cell sites go down, they may lose their service.
- Most modern laptop computers have USB ports. Keep your laptop charged, as it can be a source to recharge your cell phone during an outage.
- Your vehicle’s lighter outlet can provide numerous recharges for your cell phone using an inexpensive USB adapter.
How Do I Avoid Food Spoilage?
- Have a cooler, and keep ice packs and/or containers of water stored in your freezer.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator should keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened, freezer 48 hours.
- Keep canned food on hand along with a hand-operated can opener.
How Do I Avoid Being Completely In the Dark?
- Emergency lights that turn on when the power goes off can be useful and can be found at any hardware store or online.
- Have flashlights and fresh batteries readily available to use during a power outage, as well as a battery-operated or solar radio.
How Do I Prepare For the Power to Come Back On?
- Plug electronic equipment into surge protectors to protect against a surge when power is restored.
TURN is your statewide utility consumer advocate with offices in San Francisco and San Diego. Contact us at www.turn.org, @utilityreform or TheUtilityReformNetwork (FB)