Are You Prepared for a Power Outage?

CERT teams will play vital roles during wildfires | photo by Flo Hoylman | post by Larry Clinton

Emergency Services Chair Flo Hoylman warns that PG&E may need to cut power transmission to certain areas for as long as five days during fire season to decrease fire risk. She is organizing a communication coordinating committee with at least one person, preferably more, from each dock to help neighbors deal with any upcoming outages.

South 40 Dock had a meeting to discuss this eventuality last week. Flo distributed a handout of tips, which became the basis of a discussion.  As a result, a few of the tips were revised. Here they are:

Before a power outage

  • Make a safety plan for every member of your household, including pets.
  • Identify a backup location where you can go if you don’t want to “rough it” during an outage.
  • Update your contact information with PG&E to get alerts about power shutdowns. If your contact information isn’t updated, the utility will use what it has on file. Alerts can be received via text message, phone or email. Renters, or anyone who may not be listed on an account, should follow the company’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
  • Sign up for Alert Marin to receive call, text, email, and you can download a smartphone app to receive alerts.
  • Sign up for Nixle and select the agencies you want to send you alerts.
  • Sign up with the sheriff by texting 888 777.
  • Plan for your medical needs, including medications that need to be refrigerated, and power-dependent devices. Talk to your doctor about what you should do, and make sure PG&E knows about any medical devices.
  • Make sure you have enough medication to last through a multi-day outage.
  • Keep a hard copy of emergency phone numbers.
  • Identify a backup method for charging your cellphone (e.g., your car, solar charger, power pack)
  • Have an emergency kit with food, water, a flashlight, batteries, a battery- or crank-powered radio, a cellphone charger, first aid, clothing, medications, cash (small bills), and important documents.
  • Keep your vehicle fueled-up. Service station pumps may not be operable.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items.
  • Fill water containers (plan on at least 1 gallon per day per person). Maybe freeze some, which you can then put in your refrigerator during an outage to help keep it cool as it melts. Then you use the water.
  • Consider a backup power source, such as a generator, and make sure it’s ready to operate.
  • Plan how you will manage your human waste.
  • When you get the “one hour before” warning, empty your holding tank.

During an Outage

  • Turn off circuit breakers to avoid damage from surges when power is restored.
  • Leave a single circuit and light/ lamp on so you’ll know when power returns. When power is restored, switch on your breakers one at a time. Draw a circuit chart for your home.
  • Know where your main water shutoff valve is located.
  • Consider using coolers with ice to keep food cold and safe. A refrigerator typically will keep food cold for about four hours, and a full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours if doors to the appliances are kept closed.
  • If you have a gas stove you should be able to use it during a power outage, though you may need to light burners manually. Alternatively, use your outdoor gas grill.
  • Remember that your sewer grinder and pump will not be operable. You run the risk of overflowing your holding tank if you continue to flush your toilet, shower, or allow running water to flow through drains.
  • You can collect, contain, and dispose of human waste by lining your toilet with a plastic bag, or by using a camp toilet. Five gallon pails with snap-on toilet seat lids, and bags of liners are readily available at hardware and camping supply stores, or online.
  • Check on your neighbors.
  • PLEASE DO NOT USE CANDLES FOR LIGHT. The possibility of house fires increase in emergency situations.

If you want to revise the Tips or pass on other ideas to the committee, please email them to Flo. She will update the list and updated versions will appear from time to time in the Floating Times.

Spokespeople for PG&E have said they’re aiming to notify customers at least 48 hours in advance of a shut-off.