Dealing with Power Shutoffs

At its October 28th meeting the Council directed staff to schedule, expeditiously, a discussion of steps our community should consider to deal with the “new normal” of power shutoffs.

San Carlos, like almost all cities, has emergency/disaster plans. Unfortunately, the widespread adoption of mobile telecommunications technologies, despite their tremendous day-to-day benefits, has created a new risk. Fewer and fewer households have old-style land line phones that don’t require electrical power and operate independently of the power grid. Consequently, more and more people are at risk of being unable to contact the authorities for help if something happens to them during an emergency that involves a power shutoff.

I want to see addressing this risk, and other related ones, made a priority.

The discussion will take place at a special Council meeting to be held on Wednesday, November 13th. It will be take place in the Council chambers but will start at 6 PM, rather than the traditional 7 PM.

There will be ample opportunity for residents and business owners to share their experiences, and ideas, prior to the Council deliberating on what directions it wants to give staff. In fact, hearing those personal ideas and stories was cited by several Council members as an important reason for quickly calling a special meeting.

You are also welcome to email Council members ahead of time, particularly if you won’t be able to attend the meeting in person. You can find their emails at https://www.cityofsancarlos.org/government/city-council.

3 thoughts on “Dealing with Power Shutoffs”

  1. Andi Vachss

    PG&E’s arbitrary choice of the San Carlos Hills as a place to shut off electricity due to wind events hundreds of miles away cost my household about $600 out of pocket. This time. Multiply that by the thousands who were affected and add in lost business to those who operate home businesses, and it’s a LOT of money. Then there were the safety costs–many phones didn’t work and internet services were down, taking internet-based communication and security systems with them. The houses here are too close together for the safe use of gas-powered generators, particularly if fire danger is high.

    I strongly believe it’s time to join Palo Alto and Santa Clara, who have their own utilities, and the 22 other mayors who want to form an electricity coop. We received a $6 million settlement from PG&E–what higher or better purpose could there be for these funds than to apply them to freeing us from PG&E decision making?

  2. Charlene Edinboro

    In the Crestview Estates townhouses, at least on my circle, there was no power from Saturday night 8:13pm until Monday morning, around 10:30am. With the many PG&E alerts, I had not restocked my refrigerator so only lost a bag of salad. I had many battery-operated candles around the house, and for the two nights, I went to bed with a battery-operated radio. The outage was eerie, and concerning because there were apparently no additional Sheriff’s Office patrols in this area where we have already reported vandalism, including cigarette butts and the like in the open space and parks. I would recommend using some of that PG&E money on additional patrols.

  3. Bryan Johnson

    The power outages cannot become the ‘new normal.’ At a minimum, they need to be done more professionally and sensibly, not with this blunt approach of killing power to 1 Million people. In our specific case here in the San Carlos hills, the power outage was not even necessary because we never actually reached red-flag conditions. The NWS predicted red-flag, but it was not hot enough, the humidity was too high, and the winds were barely above risky. If we are going to do blunt force power outages, they must be for actual conditions, not simply based on weather predictions.

    The outage cost me $200 out of pocket, but more importantly shut down my home business for two days. If we continue down this path of outages, we will ultimately damage the economy of the entire bay area. At some point the cure is worse than the disease.

    I agree with Andi that we cannot really trust PG&E to do this properly. Judging by the Kincade fire, it’s not clear if their outages were even done properly. PG&E has been, and will always be about shareholder value- until we do something serious about changing that.

    Since I was unable to attend this meeting, I will send my concerns via email.

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