California High Desert girds for hot season’s rolling blackouts : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

High Desert girds for hot season’s rolling blackouts

ELECTRICITY : Edison plans to notify key officials when shutdowns occur.


VICTORVILLE — The rolling blackouts are coming.

It’s just a question of how many days the High Desert — and the rest of the state — will see the lights go out.

Communities and households are bracing for what experts say will be a dicey summer.

The summer surge in demand for electricity — mostly because of cranked up air conditioning units — means the state will not have enough power.

As a result, there will be controlled shutdowns in the state’s power grid, or rolling blackout.

“My last reading was 42 days (of blackouts) this summer,” Nancy Martin, a spokeswoman for Southern California Edison in Victorville said.

While outages should only last an hour at a time in any given area, residents and emergency personnel should prepare for what lies ahead, Martin said.

Edison held an emergency preparedness meeting in Victorville on Wednesday with emergency officials from several High Desert cities. The purpose was to discuss exactly what will happen when the California Independent System Operator — the state’s keeper of the power grid — advises Edison and other power companies to reduce consumption.

“We’re trying to make sure everyone is on the same page as far as preparation and what to do,” Martin said.

When a rolling blackout is imminent, Edison immediately tells its offices which of the 110 sections on the company’s grid will lose power. Local Edison offices then notify emergency service departments in each city — fire, police, etc. — of the impending shutdown.

“We have a 24-hour number for every city, where we can reach a real person to make sure they know what is coming,” Martin said.

The emergency services departments themselves, however, do not lose power since Edison is able to isolate essential services from the power cutoff.

Using an automatic dialing system, the company also advises at- risk individuals — people on life support systems, etc. — of the coming blackout. However, customers who are at risk must apply to the company and be certified as critical care customers to receive the warnings.

Each High Desert city has its own plan of action.

Apple Valley has back up generators for its emergency services departments. The town also has designated shelters it can activate where seniors and other at risk people can go if necessary, Apple Valley spokeswoman Kathy Baxter said.

“Town staff, police and fire personnel will work diligently to safely manage a blackout condition,” Bruce Williams, town manager, said.

Barstow works with radio stations in the area to warn people to stop at intersections. It also has emergency backup generators for many of its schools and all of its fire stations and law enforcement agencies.

“If we see it’s affecting larger areas for longer periods of time, we may do things like tell citizens to go to malls or other public places to stay cool, especially those at risk, like the elderly or the very young,” said Cheryl Harrison, transportation and emergency services coordinator for the city.

Hesperia Fire District Chief Tom Pambianco said his department is working on a plan right now.

The California Energy Commission recently recommended that Hesperia conduct a drill on the procedures to follow in the event of continuing blackouts. The department is currently making arrangements with city personnel to conduct that drill, Pambianco said.

Even though fire departments are not included in the rolling blackouts, as a precautionary measure, Pambianco said fire stations move emergency vehicles outside of the station when advised of blackouts. That is to avoid the possibility of getting stuck inside, since the stations’ garage doors run on electricity and would take 15 minutes to open manually.

Victorville City Council recently authorized the $100,000 purchase of backup batteries to power city traffic signals in the event of a blackout.

“To us it’s a safety factor,” said Victorville Public Works Department Director Guy Patterson, in a recent interview. “It’s just a way to prevent traffic accidents.”

The city also has emergency generators for all fire stations, a city official said.

To stay safe during a rolling blackout, Edison advises residents to minimize driving in an outage area, if at all possible. Anyone who must drive through a controlled outage area should be particularly careful at intersections controlled by traffic lights, since the lights may not be functioning. Motorists should treat these intersections as four-way stops.

The company also cautions residents to turn off all appliances, machinery and equipment in use when the power goes out. Leave one light on to indicate when the power has been restored. This will prevent injuries and damages that could occur if machinery and equipment were to suddenly restart. It will also prevent circuits from overloading when power is restored.,86397,

-- Martin Thompson (, April 29, 2001

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