Businesses hatch plans to handle blackouts : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Businesses hatch plans to handle blackouts

Some add generators, others issue rain checks

5/14/01 By VICKI ADAME


As rolling blackouts become a common occurrence, businesses are learning to cope.

Montecito Bank & Trust officials are taking steps to keep their branches operational. The bank will be putting diesel-powered generators at four of its locations, said Kevin Moon, director of marketing.

"We have or are in the process of putting the generators in," Moon said.

The bank came up with the backup plan in the late 1990s, while preparing for any Y2K-related trouble, he said, adding that banks had to imagine the worst-case scenario.

"We want to do business as close to normal as we can. I think the procedures are down and ready," Moon said.

Santa Barbara Bank & Trust has a backup generator for its core operations system facility in Goleta, but there are no backup power sources at individual branches, said Dave Ristig, senior vice-president heading bank operations.

Should outages occur, the branches will close, Ristig said, and bank employees will complete transactions for customers inside the bank at the time and then escort them out.

Depending on the length of the outage, bank managers will use their discretion to decide whether to reopen before the power kicks back on.

ATMs are designed to sense a power outage, Ristig said. If an outage occurs, a machine will end any transaction that is under way, he said.

Customers don't have to worry about their money or ATM card being spit out when the power returns. The machine will capture the card and store it, Ristig said. A customer would have to return to the bank once the power comes back on to retrieve the card.

Movie theaters could be especially hard hit. A blackout would not only disrupt a movie in progress; the rest of the day's schedule would be affected also.

Blackouts would "mess up" show times, said Ralph Breland, general manager of Metropolitan Theaters Corp., the only theater chain on the South Coast.

But he hopes to avoid disruptions by relying on information from Southern California Edison.

The utility said it would put grid numbers on its billing statements beginning in May, Breland said. If Edison made nightly announcements indicating the grids scheduled for the next day's blackout, the theaters could rearrange show times, he said.

Edison is working on a customer-notification system, said Ernie Villegas, a company spokesperson. But the notification by grid number would be made the same day as the anticipated blackout.

If a blackout hits during a movie, rain checks will be given, Breland said.

Some restaurants are also making plans for if the lights go out.

Paradise Cafe, 702 Anacapa St., has a backup generator that would allow it to run key equipment for a short period of time, said general manager Jim Mishler.

"We wouldn't necessarily be fully operational. We'd be able to get by," Mishler said.

Barcliff & Bair, 1112 State St., has a "ton" of flashlights, said co-owner Alicia Bair.

"We don't have a specific plan, we just have lots of flashlights," she said.

As for keeping items cold, Bair said the refrigerator will be packed with ice and the door kept shut.

A rolling blackout would disrupt business to a degree, she said. The use of the coffee maker would be lost and employees would have to make coffee the old-fashioned way -- by boiling water on the gas-powered stove.

Customers pushing their grocery carts down the aisles at Vons stores won't be stuck waiting to check-out.

The grocery store chain has begun equipping its store with back-up generators, said spokeswoman Sandra Calderon.

"Those would kick in and the stores would do business as usual," Calderon said.

The company is working to put generators in all its stores by the end of the year. There are 130 stores that do not have generators, she said. The company has 326 stores in Nevada and California, including several on the South Coast.

Stores without generators have a plan in place, Calderon said: Employees will check out customers using old hand-held machines

-- Martin Thompson (, May 14, 2001


I wish I had some stock in a company, like CAT, that makes large commerical gennys. Any thing abouve a 10K is selling like hotcakes out west. Taz

-- Taz (, May 14, 2001.

Back-up generators are only a short-term solution. Their running time is restricted. Any major, extended problem with blackouts will render them moot.

-- Wellesley (, May 14, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ