Are Preemptive Power Shutdowns in California Worth the Risk?
Now that's a controversial question. Shutting the power has loads of negative consequences. A provocative article in Homeland Security, written by Robert Lewin, retired Director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, raises the question whether shutdowns are worth the risk. Historically, power lines have caused 9% of all fires and vehicles have caused 9%. With those stats in mind, consider the following points made in the article:
- Most affected will be people who rely on medical devices such as oxygenator machines, dialysis and electric wheelchairs.
- Elderly will have no air conditioning or fans on days of record breaking heat, which is when the shutdowns will occur.
- Gas stations will have no power.
- Street signals, restaurant refrigeration, school classrooms will be without power.
- Elevators will be out of power requiring the use of stairs, that's not possible for many people.
- People with electric garage doors or gates could be trapped if the need to evacuate occurs.
- Buying generators has affordability issues and poses risks if not hooked up correctly - they can back-feed power to the grid and cause a fire.
- Many cell phone towers don't have redundant power systems, potentially leading to service being blacked out.
- Local officials don't know the extent of the potential shutdowns and if they will impact hundreds of people or thousands.
- Businesses are not fiscally prepared to be closed for a few days?
Following is Robert Lewin's bio from Homeland Security: "Robert Lewin recently retired as the Director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management. He joined OEM in January 2016 after retiring as the Fire Chief for CAL FIRE/San Luis Obispo County Fire. Lewin is a Type 1 Incident Commander and had served many years on Incident Management Teams. He has held command positions both in the field and in EOCs on some of California’s most complex incidents including fires, floods, earthquakes, human and animal diseases, and on special assignments. Robert is a Cal Poly graduate in Political Science, an Allan Hancock College graduate in Fire Science and has completed the Home Land Security Executive Leadership Program at the Naval Post Graduate School. He is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM). Robert has published several articles and presented at many conferences on Emergency Management. During the recent Thomas Fire and resulting 1/9 Debris Flow he coordinated the actions of the EOC. He is now a Principal at Resolute Associates LLC, consulting on emergency management."