CA - Riverside County Desert Cities plan simulated blackout for June 6 : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Cities plan simulated blackout for June 6 By Kimberly Trone

The Desert Sun

May 15th, 2001

PALM DESERT -- Early next month, cities from Blythe to Palm Springs will test their readiness to respond to power outages.

At 9:30 a.m. on June 6, local cities, Riverside County offices and more than 20 gated communities will react as though California’s entire power grid had failed for two to three days.

The likelihood of rolling blackouts combined with the state’s aging and strained power grid have public officials making sure they are ready for any potential fallout during the hot summer months.

"This exercise is designed to create the worst-case scenario," said Rick Cook, coordinator for Riverside County Emergency Services.

Response personnel throughout the valley have some experience from which to draw. In 1996, the western power grid went down and the entire Western United States was without power for nine hours.

"Preparedness is identifying resources which are critical in a long-term event," Cook said.

The exercise will last for four hours, during which time a number of events will occur.

Thirty "victims" will be transported to two emergency shelters to be cooled down.

At-risk: Contact will be made with at-risk groups for complications related to heat and power loss.

More than 160 potential shelters for residents have been identified in the Coachella Valley, but Cook said none have back-up generators.

The Riverside County Community Action commission is providing small generators to patients using life-support equipment.

"Several cities have opted to go on generators to make sure communication and emergency management services are ready," Cook said.

Although Imperial Irrigation District does not expect rolling blackouts this summer, the publicly owned utility company that serves customers east of Washington Street will be included in the exercise.

Medical services: Red Cross officials and physicians are searching for an alternate place to transport critically ill patients from John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio during a power emergency.

Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs and Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage would probably be too full to accommodate an overflow from the Indio hospital, Cook said.

The hospital plans to install two new generators by year’s end. One 500-kilowatt generator will be dedicated to operating the facility’s air conditioning, but until then the hospital has no back-up generator to provide cooled air. It does have back-up power for operating rooms and other critical services.

"We have not had any blackouts at this location, and we do not expect to have any," said Steve Schmidt, director of facilities at the hospital.

Edison spokeswoman Kathleen DeRosa said it is imperative people prepare for all types of emergencies.

"The emergency managers and so many organizations are always performing these types of exercises, and I do believe the valley is prepared for a power emergency," she said.

-- PHO (, May 15, 2001

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