Here in Northern California’s area code 707 (Sonoma, Napa, Solano Counties) we have again been told by our electric utility provider that planned power outages may be needed to reduce the potential for wildfires in our neighborhoods. Until these outages are no longer necessary, we need to adapt to the outages in our homes and businesses as best we can. Here are a few tips for dealing with the outages in your home, home office and around the community.
1. Back Up Computer Files Regularly. Most computer programs automatically save your work as you go, but not all. Back up your files on your computer, and also make a copy on a portable device such as a thumb drive or exterior hard drive. Assume that without power you won’t have access to your desk top computer files. Since most power outages are implemented just after midnight, get in the habit of backing up files before going to bed each night if you’ve been working on your computer that day.
2. Charge Your Laptop. I run several programs simultaneously when working and need the big screen of a desk top to work efficiently. That means my laptop isn’t used very often and each time I plug it in the battery requires an hour or more to reach full charge. My virus protection software also requires time to update anti-virus definitions and other safeguards. Keep your laptop plugged in to power and updated.
3. Battery Back Up Units. Purchase battery back up units for all critical computer systems. I have one for my desktop computer and another for my Internet router that keep me online when the power is shut off – as long as my data cable is still active. These back ups typically cost about $100 – $150 and provide about four hours of immediate back up during power outages (more or less dependent upon how many devices are supported). Turn off devices plugged into battery back up units before going to bed at night, since leaving them on could drain the battery back up if the power is cut off while you sleep.
4. Car Chargers. If you don’t currently charge your cell phone in your car, pick up a charging cable and have it ready if car charging becomes your last option.
5. Freeze Water Bottles. This is an old backpacker’s and golfer’s practice that can help save food from spoiling when power is out. Buy several cases of water in plastic bottles and freeze as many bottles as fit in your freezer. When power is out, move the frozen bottles into the refrigerator section or add them to the cooler where you will temporary store your food. Frozen bottles often outlast ice by eight to ten hours and make less of a mess.
6. Stock Up On Foods That Don’t Require Refrigeration. Power outages usually last no longer than three days, so consider getting by for a short time on foods that don’t require cold storage, such as grains, nuts and fruits.
7. Generators. If you invest in a generator, make sure to get one that has the output (Watts) to power the equipment you want to run and that you have it placed to reduce noise and engine fumes in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also make sure you have enough fuel to run the generator for at least a few days.
8. Become a Grill Master. If your stove is electric, be prepared to cook more often with your charcoal or propane grill. Have extra bags of briquettes or an extra tank on hand.
9. Keep Your Car’s Gas Tank Full. I was working in downtown Sonoma last time planned power outages were announced on the radio and almost immediately lines several blocks long formed at the gas stations along Broadway and Napa Street. Drivers assumed that gas stations without power would shut down. Keep your gas tank at least 2/3 full if possible.
10. Drive With Caution. Many traffic lights are reduced to flashing red lights or do not light at all during power outages. Approach all intersections with caution and apply the same driving courtesies you would give other drivers if every approach had a stop sign.