In response to the increase of devastating wildfires in California over the last two years, PG&E has committed to boosting its Community Wildfire Safety Program. That includes Public Safety Power Shutoff events. On days when fire danger is high, PG&E will preventatively cut electricity to customers, leaving them without power until the threat has subsided.Unfortunately, when that happens, there is no way of knowing if it’ll be minutes, hours, or even days before the power will come back on. For that reason, we’ve put together a list of suggestions to help you prepare for a power outage.
Sign up for power outage alerts
First off, if you are a PG&E customer, sign up at www.pge.com/mywildfirealerts to be notified of scheduled power outages. You can receive notices by phone, text and/or email up to 48 hours in advance. Knowing when they are coming is your first step toward being properly prepared.
Stay charged and full
Now you’re set to be notified of planned outages. But, what about the ones that aren’t planned? Because you never know when a power outage could hit, keep your necessary electronic devices charged, including your phone, and your gas tank full.
Build an emergency preparedness kit
We recommended building an emergency kit in our recent article about preparing for an earthquake, but we’re going to reiterate it here. Having supplies on hand will be key to keeping everyone comfortable and safe until the lights come back on. FEMA has a great downloadable list that can help you get started.
Know if you’re staying cool
If you don’t have one already, add an appliance thermometer to your shopping list. As soon as the power goes out, the clock will start ticking on the food in your refrigerator and freezer. According to the USDA, fridges should be kept at or below 40° and will stay cool for up to four hours if left unopened. If temperatures go above 40°, start eating meat, poultry, fish, and eggs first since they’re the quickest to go bad. Freezers should stay at or below 0° and a full freezer will stay cold for 48 hours if the door remains closed.
Let there be light
Place flashlights and battery-powered lanterns in convenient and easy-to-access locations around your home. You’ll want them handy if the lights go out at night or an outage lasts until dark. Due to the potential dangers of open flames and the increased fire risk, it’s advised not use candles. The National Candle Association estimates that 20% of candle fires involving fatalities occur during the loss of electrical power. But if they are your only option, the organization has safety tips for proper candle use.
Be aware of carbon monoxide
Tragically, carbon monoxide poisoning and deaths are common in power outages, largely due to generators and the use of grills and camping stoves to cook food. Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home. Make a plan for how you will cook food safely and never use a gas stove to provide heat during a power outage.
Talk to your doctor
If you take medications that need to be refrigerated or use power-dependent medical devices, you’ll need an alternate in case of a long-lasting power outage. Meet with your doctor to discuss how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and ask for specific guidance for any critical medications you are taking or devices you use.
PG&E has additional tips for what to do before and during a power outage. Remember, electricity won't be the only utility affected by a power outage. Reach out to your other utility companies to learn about their plans for a power outage and how you can better prepare yourself.