Lessons learned from the California power outages.

------------------------------------------------- Revised 02/21/20
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Happy endings...
The utility companies are concerned about downed power lines and
sparking more wildfires, but you should be concerned about your
family's food, water and medical needs. Get ready for planned
power outage lessons.
What to do when the power fails, pictured
right, will get you prepared for the worst winter storm.

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California Power Outages
Lessons learned from planned power outages

Lessons Learned from the planned power outages...
After the fires in California, many people who were not effected
by the fires got another surprise: planned power outages.
Planned power outages happen when the gas and power company
makes improvements to the grid in your area and crews need to
shut off power to work safely. Temporary rolled power outages
can last 30 to 90 minutes or even days if there are wildfires.

Learn how to plan for a planned power outage that a power
company could impose on you.

Be prepared for power loss by learning from others who
experienced the California wildfires and associated power
outages. Below are some of the lessons garnered...

Planned Power Outages: Lessons Learned
Emergency preparedness is nothing more than thinking in advance
about what you'd do in a natural or man made disaster. A planned
power outage can help you discover your needs. Plan now so
you'll be ready for a more severe emergency. Below are some
lessons learned from the California power outages.

Lesson #1: Having a gas range oven is a good thing!
Californians caught in the power outage realized that while their
power was out they still had their gas range for cooking. This is
reassuring for power outages, but in a long term emergency, such
as an
ElectroMagnetic Pulse, the gas will not run indefinitely.

Wood-fired cookstoves are rare in California. Wood-burning
stoves in California must comply with generalized Federal
Regulations along with additional standards. For starters, only
pellet-fueled stoves which burn commercially made wooden
pellets may be used.

Lesson #2: Your gas tank may be too low.
One of the most important things you can do when the power
companies tell you that your area may experience a planned
blackout is to get gasoline for your vehicles. If there are fires in
your area or high risk of fire you will need an escape and having
your vehicles fully gassed and ready to evacuate is critical.

Why is it so important to gas up? You may not be able to get
very far down the road if the power companies shut of electricity
in neighboring communities. Without electricity the gas stations
can't pump gas or bill your credit card or debit card. In short, your
fuel supply may be too low to get out of harm's way.

In California gas stations were closed down the length of several
counties. Some cars were forced to camp to gas stations
hopelessly awaiting rescue. A few stations opened up their
restrooms and cash-only food and drink from the mini-marts.
Others shut down entirely.

  • Prepper Lesson: Always make sure your gas tanks is never
    less than half full. Gas up immediately when you learn of a
    planned power outage. Want to go the extra mile? Get
    yourself a gas siphon as an extreme last option.

Lesson #3: You will miss your cell phone.
Your cell phone can be a life line, which is why it's important to
always fully charge your mobile phone.

If you were lucky enough during the power outage to have juice,
you could connect with friends and family outside of the power
outage zone and continue with normalcy. At the next power
outage Californians are investing in chargers.

Here are some ideas to juice up your cellphone and devices:

  • Invest in an power bank. Now's the time to invest in a
    portable power bank. A power bank makes a nice stocking
    stuffer and will keep everyone happy in a planned blackout,
    but be realistic because it won't give you weeks on end of
    uninterrupted power.

  • Get a portable solar charger. Ensure you have additional
    ways to power your devices, such as a solar charger. With a
    solar charger you can ensure a longer range of use of your
    devices. By day you can power your phone so you can
    maintain normalacy at night and stay connected to the
    world. The sun can provide an unending source of power, but
    you have to actively manage it to recharge.

  • Conserve your cellphone battery. Don't use your phone like
    a flashlight. Instead, make sure you have a solar flashlight
    or enough batteries for a regular flashlight.

  • Know you can use the battery in a laptop for power. You
    can power your phone during a blackout if you have the right
    cables to make a connection. There may be just enough juice
    in the laptop for your phone.

Lesson #4:  Ensure you have power free cooking!
If you don't have a gas range (mentioned in lesson #1), you'll
need alternative methods of cooking. Food bars and peanut butter
sandwiches eventually will get dull and you'll crave a real meal.

  • Outdoor cooking. Having a grill in the backyard or patio is
    good to have handy in any emergency; however, if there are
    wildfires there will be air quality concerns and you might not
    be able to fire up the grill. You also may run out of propane.
    Ensure you have alternative cooking methods.

  • Indoor cooking. There are lots of safe methods to cook
    indoors and you can plan ahead. One of the easiest methods
    to cook your food is with chafing fuel, such as Safe Heat,
    pictured immediate right.

    Probably the best indoor cooking set is by Esbit. The easy to
    use Esbit 130-Degree Smokless Solid Fuel Tablets are
    virtually smokeless and residue-free, the Esbit solid fuel
    tablets used to cook and heat food and beverages, boil
    water, or start campfires. Ideal for boiling water and cooking
    you need just one Esbit tablet to boil 500 ml of water in
    about 8 minutes. These fuel tablets work at high altitudes
    and sub-zero temperatures and ignites easily with match or
    lighter. What's more, the tablets are individually packed in
    waterproof packaging; and you can store 10+ years. Contains
    12 tablets.

Lesson #5: Expect no notice from the Power Company.
The power companies may take time to alert communities that a
shutoff may happen, but there could be little notification of
specific locations and exactly when the shutoff will happen. The
bottom line is that even if you sign up to receive notification from
the power company about the shut-off plans in your area, you
may still be in the dark about what's going on in your area.

You'll just have to think about this kind of an emergency like a
hurricane or an earthquake:

  • Hurricane warnings come from the weather forecasting,
    though you may not know how strong it may strike your area.
    Take it as a notice to get ready.

  • While there's no warning about an earthquake, every April is
    Earthquake preparedness month and the anniversary of the
    big earthquake is in October, so you'll really have two
    reminders annually about earthquakes.

Lesson #6: Get your instant coffee, canned chicken.
Surprisingly, the bread and peanut butter was not in short supply,
likely because people had methods of cooking their food, but
shops who opened with generators were out of canned chicken
and instant coffee.

  • Coffee is a survival tool. Instant coffee requires only boiling
    water, which was easy enough for people who had camping
    equipment or gas stoves to boil water. The unlucky caffeine
    addicts without instant coffee got withdrawal headaches or
    travelled miles to get their fix. All local coffee shops were

Lesson #7: Ice was sold out days in advance.
The days heading into the planned power outage ensured 100%
sales of ice cubes and blocks of ice. Supply just didn't meet the
demands. The clever few filled ziplock bags with water and
freezed them in advance of the planned power outage.

Lesson #8: You will get bored of camping food.
Somehow camping food tastes better camping. It just does. You
will survive on freeze dried camping food and it's always
worthwhile to have a bucket of freeze dried food handy, but the
reality is that the high sodium food will eventually get you
craving real food.

Rest assured those who had a good supply of shelf-stable foods
fared better than those who didn't plan ahead, also because they
had the confidence knowing that they also had a supply of
emergency food to take them months into a disaster.

Lesson #9: The show must go on!
You might expect that during a planned power outage a High
School might cancel a play, but one California High School left in
the dark continued it's production by using battery powered
lanterns. The show went on and the kids enjoyed a memory.

Lesson #10: Traffic signals.
You already know to stop at every traffic signal, but tou may be
surprised that you will drive right through a traffic signal that's
not functioning. That's because some lights are working and
others aren't and it will throw you off.

Be cognizant that some lights may work, such as those directing
traffic to hospitals, while other lights nearby are not working.
Drive slowly and don't go through an intersection until you know
the others approaching the light have stopped.
How to plan for a planned power outage
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