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PG&E Power Shutoff Survival Guide

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/CBS13) — We all take electricity for granted, but for many PG&E customers this basic utility has not been a guarantee over the last month.

As hundreds of thousands of customers prepare for yet another possible power shutoff this weekend, some just got their lights back on after the Oct. 23.

After the PG&E website was overwhelmed by visitors during the Oct. 9 PSPS, the utility has set up a new website that will allow customers to check whether their address will be impacted by the possible shutdown. Customers can visit that site here:

PG&E Resources and Links (Please note the PG&E website may be slow to respond because of traffic)

Here are some tips to help you and your family survive a power outage:

  • Sign up for PG&E alerts so you can be quickly informed if a power outage is about to begin in your neighborhood. It is also a good idea to sign up for alerts with your county.
    • Even if you think PG&E has your information, call 866-743-6589 to double-check.
    • If you rent, your landlord will get the alerts. Make sure your information is also on file.
  • Before going to bed, make sure to have all your electronic devices fully charged.
  • Fill up your gas tank on your way home from work — most gas pumps are electronic and will not work in an outage.
  • Stop by the ATM and withdraw cash — grocery store cash registers are electrically powered.
  • Stock up on seven days of food, water, and flashlights and batteries. If you are still using old incandescent bulbs, this might be a good time to upgrade. LED bulbs last much longer.
  • If you have an automatic garage door opener make sure you know how to disengage it and open the door manually.
  • If you have solar panels, they will not power your house. Only those with a home battery or special converter can get power from their panels.
  • Prepare yourself for slow driving — traffic lights will not be functioning in the neighborhood impacted by the power outage.
  • Be a good neighbor — if you have elderly or infirm neighbors check on their well being
  • If you use a generator — make sure it is at least 20 feet from your home with the engine exhaust directed away from windows and doors.
  • Talk with your building manager if you live or work in a building that has elevators or electronic key card access to understand how they will deal with a possible multi-day outage.
  • Break out your earthquake survival kit to use.

What to pick up at the store prior to the shutdown:

  • A manual can opener
  • Bottled water — although water service may not be impacted it may be wise to have at least a two-day supply
  • Non-perishable and food that is easy to prepare without an electric stove for you, your children and your pets
  • Two large bags of ice — these can be used to keep your refrigerated cool several hours
  • Flashlight lights and plenty of batteries. Safety experts say to avoid using candles.

What to do after the power goes off:

  • Unplug or turn off appliances, equipment and electronics to avoid damage caused by surges when the power is restored.
  • Leave a single lamp on to alert you when the power returns. Then, turn your appliances on, one at a time.
  • Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours and a full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours–as long as the freezer and refrigerator doors are kept closed.
  • Be sure to use generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills outdoors only. Do not use a gas stove for heat.
  • For food safety tips, the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services has a detailed list at their site: Food Safety During A Power Outage
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