In many ways, Californians have been preparing for what feels like a natural disaster. By Wednesday evening, nearly 800,000 Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers in the northern parts of the state could be in the dark.
The utility company announced it had plans to turn off power in thousands of households in a preventive measure to combat any wildfire threat that dry and windy weather conditions may pose.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a press conference earlier this week that nearly two million people could be affected, and the outage could last a week for some.
If you’re in any of the 34 northern, central and coastal California counties affected, take this seriously.
Here are tips to help get you through the next days:
Sign up for alerts
Sign up to receive alerts from PG&E, Liccardo said Monday, encouraging residents to try and stay as up-to-date as possible with the outage.
Shelter in place
Don’t try to get on the roads, the San Jose mayor urged residents Monday. Street lights and signals will be out in the areas affected.
If you do reach an intersection without a working street light, treat it as a four-way stop, Liccardo said.
Gas stations and ATMs will also be down during the shutoff, he said.
Have emergency plans and supplies
Everyone should have emergency plans and kits that cover all family members and pets.
If you’re able to reach family members or friends who won’t be impacted by the storage, take any items – like food and medication – that need to be refrigerated, to them.
If you’re currently in an outage, keep all fridges closed – that will help keep the inside temperatures cool for hours.
Liccardo encouraged people to have an emergency kit with the following items: one gallon of water per day for each person and pet, nonperishable or canned food for seven days, a can opener, a flashlight, batteries, and a radio that is either battery-powered, solar-powered or hand crank.
You should also have a first-aid kit with you, as well as power banks for phones, he said.
Make sure you’re comfortable opening your garage door manually. If the power outage hasn’t hit your area yet, try to learn how to do so.
Disconnect appliances to avoid damage.
Know how to use your generators
If you’re planning on using a generator, make sure you know what you’re doing.
Generators, camp stoves and charcoal grills should always be used outside and kept at least 20 feet away from windows, Ready.gov says.
“We know there have been a lot of problems in using backup generators in the past, particularly if they’re brought indoors which is very unsafe,” Liccardo said. “In other shutoff events that have occurred this summer, many fires were started from generators not being used correctly.”
If you have solar panels, the mayor said, know that you will also need an inverter or battery storage to provide power.
Check on neighbors and friends
When safe to do so, check in with the people around you to make sure they’re OK.
Those who have medical equipment that require power, like respirators, should be taken to locations with generators or a friend’s or neighbor’s home that hasn’t been impacted.
Throw out any food supplies you think may have been left in the heat for too long.
Restock your emergency and first aid kits.