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December 20, 2010

Candle in the darkYesterday morning our electricity went off at 7:20am as the rain storm came in hard and fast. Power was restored at about 12:15am this morning. Seventeen hours without electricity in our corner of Belwood of Los Gatos wasn’t much fun, but I recall several years back when the Alta Vista neighborhood went without it for 2 full days. Rumor was that everyone thought that someone else had phoned it in. Pacific Gas & Electric (P G & E) only knows about the loss of power if we tell them! Don’t assume that someone else did it.

I phoned at the power outage line (1-800-743-5002)at 7:40am, waiting a few minutes first to see if it would bounce right back on. Much later, when I checked the update, they said it was first called in at 9:43am. Who knows what happened but at least it did eventually register with them. My sense: call and call again. It can’t hurt, especially if the first calls somehow do not register in the system.

So what to do if the power goes out? P G & E has a bunch of useful power outage safety tips on its website (check the page for storms, outages and safety here). I have a few more tips of my own:

  1. Your cell phone may be more important to you than ever, especially if you use it to get email and browse the web. If the battery on your pda or cell dies, you may find yourself more isolated than ever. Make it last longer by turning off bluetooth, not using it for entertainment (watching YouTube videos or enjoying other media) and consider powering it off at times if the battery gets low. Make sure you have a car charger on hand, too. If you aren’t trapped at home with downed trees or lines, you may find yourself going out anyway for a hot meal or to warm up, and the charger can be very handy in this type of emergency.
  2. Keep on hand some battery operated tea lights (in addition to the obvious flash lights). While they don’t cast a ton of illumination, they are ultra safe to use.
  3. If you happen to have an instant hot water dispenser (we do), as soon as possible after the electricity shuts off, grab your thermos(es) and fill them with the on-tap boiling water. It should stay hot for about 6 or 8 hours, during which time you can have hot oatmeal, instant soup, coffee or tea or other things which may help you to feel warmer in a cool house.
  4. Try to avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer. If they stay shut, food will last longer.
  5. Check in on infirm neighbors or anyone you know to be dependent upon electricity for health, particularly elderly neighbors who may not have a cell phone but instead only a cordless phone (which won’t work without electricity). Find out if they have a plan or need to go somewhere until power is restored or a relative who needs contacting. If they have a medical need that is reliant upon power, make sure to let P G & E know. (I can tell you from first hand experience that this can make an enormous difference in the speed of restoration of power and am grateful to P G and E for that!)

Want to know if loved ones are without power? P G & E has an “outage map” online.

Got more tips? Please share them here!