Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Two years ago this week, wildfires devastated Oregon and raged through northern Lincoln County, forever changing lives and landscapes. In a cruel irony, nature chose this anniversary to duplicate fire conditions with heavy winds, high temperatures, and low humidity. But one major difference this year is that power utilities around the state were proactively turning off the electricity and that may have made all the difference.
Labor Day 2020, Susan and I were watching television when there was a loud noise on the street and the house went dark. I went outside and saw that a broken branch had severed the power line and the transformer had exploded. Sparks were dribbling off the pole and into the street. It was easy to see how, in a more remote location, this could have ignited another flareup.
Planned power outages may well become the norm for future fire seasons. Certainly a shutdown – with adequate notice – is preferable to increased fire risk. The utility companies say they are keeping in touch with affected customers via email, text, and social media, as well as through their websites.
But what exactly should you do to prepare for a power outage?
- Make sure your contact information is current with utilities and county emergency services. That will ensure you receive warnings, notices, and updates. During outages, some utilities offer specialized support services to customers.
- Gather critical supplies. That includes batteries, cellphone chargers, flashlights, nonperishable food, water, and extra medication. Keep those items in a safe place along with key documents. Have a go-bag ready in case you need to evacuate.
- Check-in with neighbors and see how they’re doing.
- When the power goes off, keep freezers and refrigerators closed. Only use generators outdoors and away from windows. Do not use a gas stove to heat or cook in your home — disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network has published a Disaster Recovery Guide for Business, and free copies are available (printed or PDF) from the Oregon Coast SBDC. Prepared to serve as a practical step-by-step workbook after an event, it has proven reassuring and helpful to businesses as a planning tool.
You may have also seen my report in your post box this week detailing measures and money approved last legislative session to protect our communities from wildfires.