Prepare and plan for a ‘next’ power outage

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Many questions arose among local residents following the unexpected Dec. 7, emergency power outage. Due the high winds and numerous falling trees, Southern California Edison decided mid-day Thursday to shut off power to the Hill in order to avert any possible fire caused by down and sparking lines.

Most people confronted the outage when lights and appliances turned off. Without power, computers could not access the internet. Many relied on their smart phones to learn about the emergency.

Most residences and commercial buildings that had no generator saw power restored by 5 p.m. Friday; however, many on the eastern end of North Circle Drive and in Fern Valley had to wait until 8:30 p.m. and some later.

While no wildfires burned on the Hill and residents seemed comfortable with Edison’s caution, several had questions regarding how to prepare if the situation were to occur in the future.

The Edison website, www.sce.com/wps/portal/home/outage-center/check-outage-status, has specific information about outages throughout the SCE system. One can see a map of the current outages or a list by city, county or zip code at the Outage Center website.

But without power or a smart phone, visiting the site will be difficult. For those with medical conditions who depend upon power, especially uninterrupted power, Edison has several tips.

Susan Cox, project manager with SCE’s Corporate Communications, said in an email that Edison tries to inform or alert medical baseline customers ahead of outages, especially maintenance or planned rotating outages.

But these individuals should always be prepared with an emergency plan and be ready to implement it in the event an unexpected outage or power reduction occurs to ensure safety until electricity is restored.

She also recommended that SCE customers enroll in its Medical Baseline program, which provides for extra energy per day at a lower rate and lets SCE know there is a fragile situation in the home. With this information, SCE will send alerts and notifications to these residents during outages.

The Medical Baseline application can be downloaded from the SCE website. To learn more about the Medical Baseline program, call 1-800-655-4555 or download the application.

At the website, Edison had other more specific tips:

Equipment backup

If the medical equipment is supplied by a hospital or a durable medical equipment company, work with them to develop an emergency or backup plan. Some companies may supply more medical equipment and other services during emergency situations.

Get on special needs lists

Contact your local fire department to learn whether they maintain a list of people with special medical needs. Being on this list may help them better respond to you during emergencies.

Emergency contacts

Keep emergency phone numbers handy. This includes your doctor, police, fire and durable medical equipment company (if applicable).

Backup plan

Develop plans to leave your home in the event of a lengthy power outage. Share this plan with family, friends and others who should be aware.

Also, the site, www.sce.com/wps/portal/home/outage-center/preparing-for-outages, offers tips and suggestions for enduring the outage, such as checking batteries, avoiding downed power lines and flashlights over candles.

Edison also recommends that customers who use a generator place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it using a heavy-duty extension cord. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.

Edison also recommends against using outdoor heating or cooking inside the house. The danger is more carbon monoxide and other toxic gases accumulating without direct venting.

Finally, some residents who have propane water heaters and ovens voiced questions about propane fireplaces. These are legal in most states and California if the fireplace has a vent.

Ventless propane fireplaces, even decorative, are illegal in the state. In some states, these are small enough to be considered room or space heaters. But California requires either a direct vent out the wall or roof or the smaller B-vent for gas fireplaces.

JP Crumrine can be reached at jp@towncrier.com. 

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