Gov. Davis wants more warning before blackouts : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Gov. Davis wants more warning before blackouts

Posted at 3:40 p.m. PDT Thursday, May 24, 2001

BY JENNIFER COLEMAN, Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Californians will soon know at least a day in advance if power is likely to go out where they live or work, Gov. Gray Davis said Thursday.

He plans to order the state's power grid managers to issue a warning 48 hours before they believe blackouts are likely. The executive order he will issue in the next few days will require the Independent System Operator, keeper of the state's power grid, to give a 24-hour update, including naming which specific neighborhoods will be hit. A final warning will be issued an hour before the blackouts.

``If blackouts are going to occur, there's no reason to keep the public in the dark,'' Davis said. ``We've had as little as two minutes notice before blackouts. Now, a two-minute warning may work for the National Football League, but it won't work for California consumers and businesses in this state.''

The advance warning will give law enforcement time to get to neighborhoods before the lights go out so they can direct traffic or increase patrols, Davis said. The governor was flanked by top law enforcement officials including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who compared the preparation for blackouts to Year 2000 planning.

Davis made his announcement days after consulting with Chicago officials, who are able to provide similar warnings there. His order will supersede a plan being considered by the ISO to give 30 minutes notice of power outages.

Beginning May 30, the ISO also plans to issue warnings similar to weather advisories 24 hours before expected blackouts. ISO officials say they'll post more details on their Web site about actual and forecast power demand and supply.

Until now, the ISO has refused to give more than a few minutes' warning, saying it did not want to alarm people when there was still a chance that a last-minute purchase of power could stave off blackouts. The utilities have also resisted giving warnings, saying they did not want to tip off burglars and other criminals.

``The utilities view this as confidential information. I have the power under the emergency act under which we're currently working to override that and order that this information be made available as a matter of public safety,'' he said.

Grid managers have often avoided blackouts when last-minute power was found, but Davis said he'd still rather let the public know that blackouts could happen, even if they didn't materialize.

Californians have seen six days of rolling blackouts this year and have been warned to expect more this summer. Experts say the state's power system, crippled by a botched effort at deregulation, will probably be unable to produce or buy enough electricity to power air conditioners on hot days.

The sudden nature of previous rolling blackouts was a major consumer complaint. The rolling blackouts move from neighborhood to neighborhood in a sequence that is determined by the utilities and is difficult or impossible for the public to predict. The outages last 60 to 90 minutes and then roll to another neighborhood.

Because of the lack of notice, earlier rolling blackouts have led to pileups at intersections suddenly left without stoplights, trapped people in elevators, and caused business losses by bringing production lines to a halt. People with home medical equipment like oxygen fret they that they will be cut off without warning.

-- Swissrose (, May 24, 2001

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