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Despite information in the media, many households were caught unprepared for PG&E’s recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs in certain areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to PG&E, the effects of climate change are making California’s wildfire season longer and more intense, threatening homes and people’s lives. In order to prevent tragedies like the deadly Camp Fire, PG&E says the probability is great that it will proactively shut off electrical power to households during days of strong winds and extreme fire danger.

Below are steps recommended by PG&E, the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® and other sources, to help homeowners prepare before a shutoff occurs:

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), knows the impact a fire can have on a family, since his home was destroyed during the 1985 Lexington fire and the family had to rebuild. “We were utterly devastated when our home burned down. We were fortunate to be safe, but the fear was very real,” said Barbic. “That’s why it is important to prepare as much as you can and have an emergency plan in advance in the event your family is affected by a power shutoff or should any type of emergency arise.”

Below are steps recommended by PG&E, SILVAR and other sources, to help homeowners prepare before a shutoff occurs

  • Visit http://www.pge.com to confirm or update your contact information, so PG&E can send you notifications in advance of a shutoff.
  • Create a safety plan for your family, including pets. This includes emergency contact information and an emergency supply kit with enough water and nonperishable food to last your family for a week. Refresh your kit once a year.
  • When there is no power, Wi-Fi and other devices that rely on electricity to function won’t work, so keep mobile phones and other devices charged. Better yet, have an external battery charger that can charge your phone and other devices. Make sure it is charged all the time.
  • Have a battery-operated radio so you can listen for news updates.
  • Have several flashlights available and store extra batteries for your flashlights and portable radio. Avoid using candles.
  • Keep cash on hand, preferably in small bills, since ATMs and credit card machines may not function during an outage.
  • Keep your gas tank always at least half full. Gas tanks need electricity to pump gas. If you own an electric vehicle, make sure it is fully charged.
  • If your garage door does not have a battery backup, learn how to manually open it.
  • If you live in a unit that has elevators or electronic key card access, talk with your building manager about how they will deal with a possible outage.

During a power shutoff:

  • Unplug or turn off appliances, computers and other electronics to avoid damage caused by surges when the power is restored.
  • Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours and a full freezer will keep its temperature for about two days if they are kept closed. Use coolers with ice or freeze water in plastic containers to keep food cold.
  • If you rely on electric or battery-dependent medical technologies such as breathing machines, a power wheelchair or scooter, and home oxygen or dialysis, make sure you have a plan in place for an extended power outage.
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