• Keep your smartphone fully charged. 
  • Use an external battery charger that can charge your phone several times. If possible, purchase a more robust battery charger that can charge several devices at a time. 
  • Turn your car into an emergency generator by using a power inverter that turns DC current from your vehicle to AC current to power home devices from your car. 
  • Store plenty of batteries to power LED flashlights and portable radios. Remember, streaming services won’t work without electricity. 
  • Refill your car’s gas tank when it reaches half a tank to avoid being caught without gasoline during a prolonged blackout. Gas pumps rely on electricity to function. If you own an electric vehicle, keep it fully charged. 
  • Keep plenty of cash on hand since ATM machines likely won’t work during a power outage. Credit card machines also require electricity. 
  • Disconnect your computer and use a surge protector to avoid damage from a power surge when the electricity comes back on. 
  •  Learn to operate your garage door without electricity.…. Pull on the red handle that should be dangling from the garage door unit. This will unhinge the door from the rail so that you can manually lift the door. Some doors have a key so they can be opened from the outside during a power outage.
  • Freeze water in plastic containers so that they will keep food cold during a temporary outage. A freezer can keep food safe for 48 if the door is unopened. The refrigerator should maintain cool temperatures for about four hours if the door is not opened. 
  • Make sure every member of your family has an emergency contact list printed out in case a cellphone battery dies. 
  • Store non-perishable foods and drinking water for you and your family. Items like crackers, trail mix, canned tuna and dried fruit do not require a stove or electricity to prepare. 
  • Consider your family’s medical needs. Store necessary medications and prepare an emergency power source for any medical devices that require electricity. 
  • Your emergency kit should have enough supplies to sustain you and your family for three days.  


1.PG&E’s outage strategy is not going to stop fires altogether. 

  1. Stores ran out of everything: gas, food, ice, batteries, generators.

Supermarkets ran out of food. At gas stations that still had power, tanks went dry. Customers bought every portable generator from every hardware store in the Bay Area. Empty freezers lined the aisles of grocery stores, which sold out of ice, bottled water and frozen food. Mothers scrambled to pump and preserve breast milk. At some shops, it was hard to find D batteries for flashlights. A frantic rush before the next blackout is probably inevitable, but some say they’ve learned to stock up for next time. 

  1. Masks don’t help with smoke. Stay inside.

Anyone who lived in the Bay Area last year probably remembers those ghoulish N95 air filtration masks. When the skies turned soupy orange and the air smelled like barbecue, it seemed like everyone had one. Offices stocked up on boxes. Drugstores sold out. Turns out they don’t really help, according to health experts. A better solution? Stay inside at home, or hole up in the library, museum or shopping mall. Create a “clean” space at home with air purifiers. 

  1. Cell service is vulnerable during shut-offs.A New Normal CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES 


It’s generally a good idea to charge all of your devices before a scheduled blackout, but that won’t help if the cell towers in your area go dark. That’s what happened to dozens of them in October, disrupting phone and internet service for thousands of people and prompting questions from regulators. The big danger of cell outages is that they also block emergency communications from cities telling people to evacuate if a wildfire is looming. In some areas, even radio stations went out when PG&E cut power.

5.It takes an army to fight a wildfire.

More than 5,000 firefighters battled the Kincade Fire, a huge assemblage that was able to mostly corral the blaze by midweek as fierce winds finally died down. After last year’s Camp Fire killed 85 people in Butte County, Northern California cities and counties improved their emergency response, sending crews to form defensive lines, deploying tanker planes and evacuating people long before flames lapped at their doorsteps.   

     6. Evacuations were huge, early and widespread.

Nearly 200,000 people were told to leave their homes before the winds picked up and drove the Kincade Fire toward residential areas in Sonoma County. Some grumbled that officials had become trigger-happy with evacuation orders, advising everyone west of Highway 101 and north of Highway 12 to get out. But county supervisors and firefighters defended the approach, noting that no one died in the inferno  a stark contrast to the Wine Country fires of 2017 and last years devastating Camp Fire. The day we knew the winds were going to come in the evening, it was like waiting for a hurricane, said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, referring to the Friday after the fire erupted. We knew we had this time period to get people moved. 

      7. Low-income people were hit the hardest.

Disaster has a built-in economic injustice. Affluent people tend to bounce back, armed with savings and the ability to wait for an insurance payout. But it’s much harder for low-income people to cope. When a blaze wipes out the housing supply, people compete for short-term rentals  and those with means go to the front of the line. Upper-class residents also tend to have social capital, meaning friends or family who can supply loans, said Stephen Baiter, executive director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, an organization dedicated to economic and workforce issues. By contrast, low-income people often suffer. The initial shock of a disaster can be enough to put many people over the edge. Evacuation can mean the loss of a job as well as a home. Stress can cause a persons health to deteriorate. And once a person is cut adrift, support networks can easily fray.

8. The Bay Area’s housing crisis has pushed more people into fire-prone regions.

More and more Californians are moving to fire country, a result of skyrocketing rents, cities’ restrictions on multifamily rentals and the American dream of a single-family home with a yard. The quest for affordable housing has pushed people out of San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland and into places like Lake County, where they are more exposed to risk. Ninety-five percent of the state’s fires are caused by humans, Cal Fire Division Chief Jonathan Cox told reporters during the Kincade Fire. And many experts warn that it’s not just power lines running into the wilderness  its people carelessly tossing cigarette butts, cutting trees with chain saws, fixing cars, roasting hot dogs on barbecue grills. Thats the danger of having so many people settle along what is known as the urban-wildland interface. More blazes ignite and spread to residential development.   

    9. Climate change is making things worse.

Choking heat waves, long dry spells, fire season that extends late into the year  all of these extreme weather conditions are caused or exacerbated by climate change. Scientists blamed the heat that enveloped California last year on a shift in the jet stream, which was allowing weather patterns to stagnate, rather than sweeping them along. Emissions from cars, power plants and factories trap sunlight and warm the atmosphere. Those high temperatures, combined with the protracted dry season, create a combustible environment for the Diablo winds that lash Northern California each autumn. 

     10.  Some rural residents had no water during the blackouts.

Taps went dry in some parts of the Bay Area during the shut-offs, mainly in more rural areas where people rely on wells powered by electricity. Clare Pace, an environmental science researcher at UC Berkeley who is studying the topic, estimates that 183,000 people use wells in the nine-county Bay Area. Municipal water districts advised people to conserve water, a reminder that they, too, rely on electricity to distribute water. Generally, districts are able to cover shut-offs of a few days with generators and there were no reported issues with their service. 

     11. PG&E improved its communication with some stumbles. 

PG&E’s clunky, crash-prone website added another layer of chaos to the first wave of outages in October, signaling to many that the company was ill-prepared to cut the lights to thousands of people. Its call centers were also overwhelmed, leaving many people without critical information about when the power would go off and when it would come back on. County officials complained PG&E failed to convey information and intentionally overstated areas likely to lose power during the first series of outages. The utility appeared to improve during the most recent outages, building a new website and providing more detailed notifications. Blackouts are by definition unpredictable: PG&E can’t control the weather, it has to shut everything down long before the winds come, and it can’t just flip a switch and shut everything off at once. 


E Wagley (neighbor)   Lessons learned 

The California Energy Commission gave a grant this year to Caban Systems of Burlingame to produce solar-powered batteries for telecommunications companies. It already sells such systems in Latin America. 

Goal Zero has several: basically car batteries with inverter. I have one.
You can get these at REI, they are heavy, and have to be recharged every six months.

My favorite is River by EcoFlow. Only 11 pounds. I use it to charge cell phone/tablet, and lights, (and mini vacuum cleaner and mini blender). It is the only source of power in my cabin. I charge it by a 50watt solar panel which folds up. 

I have several Goal Zero 400 lights which charge by usb. I don’t recommend the smaller Goal Zero lights, as they are not very powerful. 

EcoFlow is coming out with a larger solar generator. 

Gas/diesel generators pose so many risks, and there is the difficulty of obtaining and storing fuel! 

Anne Wagley 


Russ on Grizzly   (neighbor) We have a 10KV gas generator that runs the whole house. 30 gallons of back up gasoline. Two water tanks for 70 gallons of water, 2 weeks of food, and the $10 land line phone that always seems to work.  Plus plenty of fire wood to heat the house if all else fails.            


Source: SF Chronicle          Mallory Moench | Nov. 5, 2019 

Facing the prospect of a decade of PG&E power shut-offs, Bay Area programs that buy energy for local communities are pushing for more solar-powered backup batteries to survive blackouts before next fire season hits. 

The goal is to install batteries in around 6,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, with a focus on low-income residents and those with critical medical equipment that’s dependent on electricity. 

East Bay Community Energy, which buys green energy for Alameda County, is joining with several similar programs  Peninsula Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Power and Silicon Valley Clean Energy  to ask solar companies for proposals to install battery systems in more buildings, with the programs buying the energy thats produced. 

Customers who get the systems will save money, officials said. Their systems will cost less due to a deal with the program to use the energy they produce if need be in order to comply with a law that requires utilities to guarantee they have the ability to handle high demand on the grid at all times. 

The groups plan to announce the program with officials Tuesday at a fire station in Fremont powered by a small, freestanding solar grid. Installations would start next year, officials hope. 

“The public can’t be expected to put up with (the PG&E outages) on an ongoing basis. That’s especially true of the most vulnerable members of community who depend on electricity for their life and well-being,” said Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb, who chairs East Bay Community Energy’s board. “If we can create a more resilient power grid with more backups, which will include battery storage … that could reduce the potential impact for a lot of people. We have to make sure these backup systems are available to everyone who needs it most.” 

Across Northern California, residents, businesses and municipalities are scrambling for alternatives as PG&E proves more unreliable. Last month, San Francisco bid to purchase the utility’s infrastructure, which was promptly rejected. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo wants to create a customer co-op utility and help people’s lights to stay on through renewable energy microgrids  isolated pockets of electricity supply and demand that can stand alone from the rest of the grid. And residential solar companies reported a spike in interest and sales before and after PG&E outages. 

Programs like East Bay Community Energy are known as community choice aggregation programs; residents band together to buy alternative energy. But they still depend on PG&E wires to move the electricity from where it is generated to homes and businesses. Backup batteries that store solar power offer homes and businesses the ability to keep the lights on even if PG&E turns off the power. 

More than 30,000 East Bay Community Energy customers have solar systems, but not all have batteries to store the energy for nights and cloudy days. Many people have bought gas-powered generators in response to the outages, but they produce carbon emissions and can pose risks if they are not installed properly. 

“One of the ways to sort of insulate yourself better from public safety power shut-offs is to have some local storage so that you can segregate your electrical grid a little bit so that it’s more of a microgrid,” said Anthony Kovscek, chairman of the energy resources engineering department at Stanford University. “But it will be expensive.” 

Experts acknowledge solar systems aren’t yet affordable for everyone. “They are historically on wealthier individuals’ homes,” said JP Ross, senior director of programs for East Bay Community Energy. 

The state offers subsidies and, under East Bay Community Energy’s current solar program, low-income customers can get reduced rates. Depending on what proposals the group receives from solar companies, the new battery storage program could have cost savings too, Ross said. 

East Bay Community Energy has already worked with PG&E to replace a jet fuel-powered plant in Jack London Square with large-scale batteries. It’s also working with Sunrun, a San Francisco solar company, to add solar panels and batteries to more than 500 low-income housing units in Oakland over the next two years. 

Posted in In The News 


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