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How to prepare for on-campus power outages

Photo by David Hellmann 

While Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has not confirmed if they will issue rolling power outages to Alameda County presently, power cuts due to wildfires and high fire warnings can happen at any time. Rolling blackouts have become a yearly phenomenon on the Mills campus, to the point where classes were canceled last year due to the anticipation of blackouts disrupting classes. With this year being one of California’s worst fire seasons, here is how you should prepare if you live on campus.

In previous years, when Mills anticipated that rolling blackouts would affect the campus, Public Safety & Transportation and Housing Services sent out an email to students on campus indicating the dates and times these blackouts would occur. In addition to email, Mills sends official communication to students through the Rave Alert system, which sends texts and phone calls to students at a moment’s notice. To sign up to receive emergency alerts and safety information via email, voicemail, and text messages, students can register for alerts through the Mills Resource Portal under the application ‘Mills Notification Service’ in the “myMills Resources” section. Another option for students to stay in touch is to follow the Mills Public Safety Twitter account (@DPSMILLS) for campus notifications in real-time.

To prepare for a blackout, PG&E recommends the following steps.

Gather essential supplies such as:

  • Flashlights for the household
  • Battery-powered or crank radio
  • Extra batteries for items you rely on

Also keep cash on hand and a full tank of gas (if you have a car), as local ATMs and gas stations may also lose power. In addition to the essentials mentioned above which can be bought from most supermarkets and hardware stores, it is also important to plan for medications that require refrigeration or medical devices that need power.

Prepare in advance to store food safely. The day or night before an announced shutoff, you should:

  • Consider asking relatives or friends outside of shutoff areas to store cold foods for you during an outage
  • Avoid buying food that needs to be frozen or refrigerated until power is restored
  • Set your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings in the lead-up to an outage, until power is restored
  • Freeze items from your refrigerator for later use
Photo by Franck V. 

On top of these tips, Mills advises students to make a personal plan and emergency supply kit for larger emergencies. The college recommends that you:

  1. Pay close attention to campus drills and know the Emergency Evacuation Assembly Areas.
  2. If evacuation is not possible, identify a safe place in your room or residence hall and practice getting there.
  3. Establish an out-of-area contact (at least 100 miles away), like a friend or relative.
  4. Be prepared to assist people in basic medical and first aid by taking a CPR and first-aid course.

At present PG&E has not issued any schedule for rolling blackouts for Alameda County. Nonetheless, it’s better to be prepared for one then have to deal with the chaos of not being prepared.