Power shutoffs and fire safety

Like you, I am frustrated with how PG&E has been handling power shutoffs in our county.
PG&E’s decision to execute power shutoffs is very costly, both to local governments and to our residents, who understandably feel ignored, scared and angry. A utility company has a responsibility to provide safe, reliable services. They can’t simply turn off power to people who rely on such things as medical equipment like breathing machines, or for children who can’t go to school.
And businesses need to be open each day to sell products and employ people. If regular sustained power outages are the “new normal,” I fear that a significant negative economic impact could ensue, resulting in employees facing layoffs from businesses that can’t absorb the losses.
While the county can’t control what PG&E does, we are making it clear to Sacramento leaders who regulate PG&E that their actions have consequences for our residents. Entire neighborhoods have gone dark for several days (including my own), which is a huge public safety concern, particularly in rural areas. County and city resources have been stretched thin in order to help keep people safe during these outages.
Santa Clara County declared an emergency during the outage to ensure that resources are available to continue critical operations and to minimize impact to the community. The emergency declaration allows the county to coordinate with a large network of public and private partner agencies when circumstances are beyond the capacity of local services and personnel. The county is also supporting other jurisdictions (cities and counties) that are severely impacted by the power shutoff.
We know that fire danger is real, and we need to hear from PG&E on what they plan to do to ensure that ongoing shutoffs aren’t the new normal. As county supervisor and chair of the Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee, I’ve requested PG&E representatives to appear before our next committee meeting to answer questions. I am more than willing to detail the effects of their actions on our residents, and to help them plan better.
The devastating fires across California this fall serve as a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are to wildfires (as well as housefires). We recently commemorated Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 6-12) with Santa Clara County Fire Capt. Jeremy Davis and his team. I’m more than grateful to the men and women who serve the public round the clock. Fire Prevention Week reminds the public that they also must inform themselves of ways to prepare for fires.
For anyone wanting to help current fire victims, the American Red Cross is one of the organizations providing emergency assistance and is asking for donations. More than 2,400 people stayed in 17 Red Cross and community shelters one night alone last week during the Kincade fire.
The Red Cross provides shelter, meals and snacks, relief supplies, emotional support and spiritual care, and health services such as replacing lost medications and eyeglasses. Anyone is welcome at Red Cross shelters, including those with service animals. While many people want to help fire victims by sending donations of clothes, bottled water and canned food to disaster areas, emergency responders say that financial contributions are the most effective way to help. Texting “REDCROSS” to 90999 will send the agency a $10 donation, or you can visit www.RedCross.org to contribute other amounts.
Supervisor Mike Wasserman represents District 1, which includes Gilroy. This is excerpted from his November newsletter. Wasserman can be reached at (408) 299-5010 or [email protected]

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