If the lights go out, will you be ready?

There’s been a year of public outreach, yet only now does it appear California customers are realizing the massive ramifications of Southern California Edison’s new Public Safety Power Shutoff program.

Northern California’s SCE equivalent, Pacific Gas & Electricity Corp., or PG&E, made national headlines this week when it announced the coming Santa Ana winds are prompting the utility giant to cut power to more than 800,000 Bay Area customers. The goal is to keep electrical equipment from sparking another fire. Warm, dry winds in the forecast are causing Edison to consider its own shutoff affecting some 170,000 SoCal customers, including more than 23,000 here in Ventura County and west Los Angeles County.

SCE released a list of three area cities being closely monitored and at risk of a shutdown: Simi Valley, Camarillo and Fillmore. It’s hard to imagine Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village being far behind.

So what will a power shutdown mean for residents in our neck of the woods? That depends largely on two factors: How many homes and businesses will be affected, and how long their power will remain off. In Northern California, PG&E has said some areas could lose electricity for a week.

If the electricity were to stay off that long locally, traffic lights—which can work on a backup generator for around 24 hours—would stop working. The same goes for streetlights. At the county level, the courthouse, the jail system, even 911 dispatch would be affected.

Given its suspected role in two massive wildfires—the 2017 Thomas fire and 2018 Woolsey fire—Edison has undertaken multiple steps to improve its fire readiness and prevention efforts. For that they should be commended.

And we understand the company’s desire to do everything in its power not to cause another catastrophic blaze, but its first priority must be to provide electricity to our homes and businesses, especially in an emergency. The time for SCE to repair at-risk equipment has passed. We hope they can leave the power on.

If, by the way, you’re one of the many people who have not looked into the ramifications of losing electricity, the time to do so is now.

1. Log into your SCE.com account and follow the instructions to get on the company’s contact list should a shutdown occur. SCE has pledged to send out at least two notifications before a power-off: one 48 hours in advance, and the second and final with 24 hours to go. Remember, Edison having your phone number/email on file for billing purposes does not mean you’re set up to receive notification.

2. If you don’t have thousands of dollars to buy a backup generator, at the very least make sure you have working flashlights and candles.

3. If you or someone in your home requires electrical-powered medical equipment, make sure you’ve notified Edison and have a backup plan, which may require staying with a friend or relative. When the lights go out, don’t be left in the dark.

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