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Aug 06

Preparing and planning ahead for power outages

Posted on August 6, 2019 at 9:37 AM by Katie Combs Prichard

In response to the growing danger of wildfires, many energy companies across California have begun conducting Public Safety Power Shutoffs, meaning the companies elect to turn off power during extreme weather conditions -- like dry heat and high winds that can turn a spark into a dangerous flame. 

While the hope is that these proactive shutoffs can help prevent some of the devastating wildfires that we’ve witnessed in recent years, they also present challenges to our residents, particularly if the shutoffs stretch into multiple days. 

With this in mind, we urge all residents to take some basic steps to prepare for power shutoffs: 

  • Have a personal safety plan in place for every member of your household (including pets). This can include identifying backup locations to go, from friends’ houses to nearby hotels. 

  • Plan for any medical needs like medications that need to be refrigerated or devices that require power.

  • Build or restock your emergency supply kit, including food, water, flashlights, a radio, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.

  • Identify backup charging methods for phones.

  • Learn how to manually open your garage door.

  • If you own a backup generator, ensure it is ready to safely operate. Never try to back-feed your house by plugging a generator into a wall outlet or temporarily wiring into the electrical panel. This can be extremely dangerous for you, your neighbors and utility workers who may be working on power lines.

You can find more resources at prepareforpowerdown.com

It’s very important to make sure your contact information is up-to-date with your energy company. Customers whose power will be turned off will be notified by their energy company in advance of the shutdown. Energy companies will take extra steps to notify customers whose medical needs necessitate access to power, such as home oxygen or dialysis. You’ll also see updates on social media, energy companies’ websites and on the news. Notifications will also be sent out when power is restored, which can take some time because all lines must first be inspected. 

We know these shutoffs may present an inconvenience to residents, whether small or significant. Our county, like others across the state, is adjusting to the new realities of wildfire risk. If we can all take steps to prepare and encourage our neighbors and loved ones to do the same, though, hopefully risks can be minimized. 

As I close out this column, I also wanted to take a moment to bid farewell, as I will soon be leaving my role as Health Officer to return to psychiatry. I have appreciated working alongside many passionate people in Placer County to improve public health, and have enjoyed using this space in my column to connect with residents directly about important health and wellness issues. Though I will no longer be working for the county, I will continue to live here, and I expect to see our community thrive and grow even healthier in the coming years. 

Thank you for reading, and as always -- Be Well. 

Rob

Dr. Rob, Robert Oldham, lives in Roseville and will continue to fill in as the county’s Health Officer until his successor is appointed. This column will go on hiatus. Contact the public health office at (530) 889-7141.