Many of us can hardly imagine going a full week without electricity, but that is precisely what Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is telling us to prepare for. In the wake of devastating wildfire seasons, PG&E has warned local residents that if weather conditions meet certain criteria, PG&E will shut off power to the electrical grid that feeds most of Mendocino County.
According to PG&E, no single factor will drive a Public Safety Power Shutoff, as they’re calling the rolling blackouts. However, they plan to turn off power when they determine there’s an “extreme” fire risk. Conditions may include things like a Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service, humidity levels below 20 percent, forecasted sustained winds above 25 mph with wind gusts in excess of 45 mph, and/or a low moisture content of vegetation (dry fuel) like August of every year.
A number of issues come to mind as I sit here in my office. I try to imagine what I could accomplish with no computer, no cell phone service (electricity may take out cell towers), no lights, and no air conditioning. Then I multiply the expense of getting nothing done by the number of employees being as unproductive as I am and it becomes a very expensive proposition. Although real estate is not a life or death business, it is a deadline-driven business and missing deadlines can result in canceled transactions or interest rate changes that can amount to thousands of dollars for home buyers.
Then I start thinking about businesses that are life and death—like hospitals. I know they have back-up generators and get priority re-fueling, but what happens to all the people who depend on electricity for their medical needs? Refrigeration for their medicine? Power for their C-pap machines, respirators, ventilators, power wheelchairs and scooters, hepa filters, and/or equipment for oxygen or home dialysis? Even if your medication doesn’t require refrigeration, if it says it should be stored at “room temp,” that probably doesn’t mean 110 degrees.
Entertainment (Parental Sanity)
And while it may not seem critical, for parents of school-aged kids home for the summer, the sudden loss of access to the TV, computers, gaming consoles, and cell phones may feel like a crisis. (Although they could go outside to play) Those long summer days now seem endless, but not necessarily in a good way. Some parents may set up sprinklers in their yard to entertain the young ‘uns. It’s a good idea, but if the electricity is out some houses may not have adequate water.
Most water districts in Ukiah have back-up generators, but a few homes will suffer—specifically, those that require booster pumps that aren’t on back-up generators or get their water from wells. Even with back-up generators, most water districts will be unable to pump and treat the standard August daytime water usage in the Ukiah Valley, so some water rationing could ensue.
Have a Plan
While we can’t plan for every contingency, we’ve been given plenty of warning about the potential for rolling blackouts. If you depend on electricity for your medical needs, now’s the time to consider how you will manage those needs. I recently purchased a solar-powered charging station and battery back-up for my C-pap machine. It doesn’t produce enough energy to run my air conditioner, but it takes care of the C-pap and it might run a mini-fridge for medications. Better to do a little research now and pick up what you need, rather than joining the throng of people who will, no-doubt, rush to buy supplies as soon as the electricity goes out.
If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.