Californians Cut Off the Power – What to Do If This Happens to You

Half a million people in California have power outages today , and another outage is planned in the next few days. Here’s what we know about the situation.

Why are they turning off the power?

The bushfire season is just beginning in the area, and you may remember that last year’s fires were particularly devastating. Fires are more common in the fall due to hot and dry weather, resulting in huge amounts of dry vegetation that can fuel wildfires. Climate change is, of course, contributing to this heat. This may explain why last year’s season was so bad, and hints that future seasons could be even worse.

Sparks from electrical equipment can cause fire. Earlier this year, California gave its major energy supplier Pacific Gas and Electric (better known as PG&E) the right to turn off electricity when the fire hazard is particularly high.

Wouldn’t this be a serious disruption to the lives of many people?

Yes. If you have medications, such as insulin that needs to be kept in the refrigerator, or medical equipment that requires nourishment, this is a big deal. The main commuter tunnel was supposed to be closed , but the company managed to find enough generators to keep it running. Schools will be closed. Gas stations and ATMs may not work. Homes, businesses, and anything else without a generator can run out of electricity.

To see if your region is listed, PG&E has a webpage, but it doesn’t seem to work at this time. KQED has a searchable map . It’s the same with the Chronicle of San Francisco .

The current level of fire risk is only planned for a day or two, but it could take several more days before the utility can turn on the electricity again for everyone. They say prepare for a power outage for up to five days.

What’s the best way to prepare for a power outage?

We’ve got an entire guide to preparing for a power outage . Some of the most important steps:

  • Assemble an emergency kit that includes water, food you can cook without electricity, flashlights and other light sources (like glow sticks), and other essentials.
  • If you have any medications or medical equipment that could be damaged, ask your doctor what they recommend that you do if the electricity goes out for a long time. For example, there may be alternative medications or devices, or they may give you advice on how long your medications can last out of the refrigerator.
  • Write down the phone numbers in case your phone breaks and you need to use a landline or borrow someone else’s phone.


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