California is no stranger to heat. But with a heat advisory keeping everyone inside, wildfires threatening to force sudden evacuations, and a pandemic with no vaccine that reduced the number of open public areas, residents found themselves forced to stay home through the first rolling blackouts the state has imposed in 20 years.
Thankfully, many residents were more than willing to comply with flex alerts sent out by utilities to cut back energy consumption during peak hours. Still, approximately 400,000 homes were left without power for two 100+ degree days at the end of August. Whether you were one of these families or not, it’s important to have plans for dealing with these emergencies as fire season gets into full swing.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A HEAT WAVE
Learn what to do before and during a heatwave to stay safe and handle a power outage or blackout.
Avoid strenuous exercise and stay inside to avoid the worst of the heat. If you do venture outside, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and avoid doing so during the hottest part of the day.
Cool water can help you replenish the fluids you may be losing due to sweating, but it can also help you cool your core body temperature.
PREPARE FOR POWER OUTAGES
The forecast was calling for a swell in heat long before power became an issue, but with the additional heat from more than 6,000 wildfires across the state, the problem quickly became uncontrollable. CAISO, one of California’s major grid operators, issued alerts to residents and asked them to reduce their energy consumption from the peak hours of 3 PM to 10 PM.
Follow these tips to help keep your family safe and prepared during a blackout:
Save your food. Don’t open the fridge unless you have ice chests or coolers and enough ice to keep food from spoiling during a prolonged power outage.
Invest in alternative energy solutions and battery storage systems. Solar panels harness natural energy from the sun, but they need to be paired with a battery storage system to save excess energy for use at night or during a blackout. You’ll still lose access to the grid during a power outage, but with a charged Tesa Powerwall, you’ll have energy independent of the utility companies.
Make sure you have at least half a tank of gas in your car. Excessive heat can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and you’ll want to have a reliable method of transportation if you need to suddenly evacuate your home or take a loved one to receive medical care.
Have a plan for your pets. The Red Cross has tips to help you create an evacuation plan and an emergency kit for your furry friends.
Eat small meals multiple times throughout the day. Avoid cooking hot food and stick with greens, sandwiches, and other cold foods that don’t require your oven or stove to prepare.
PREPARE AN EMERGENCY DISASTER KIT
Make sure to follow the Red Cross list of supplies for your emergency preparedness kit. These include:
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Any medications
- Multi-purpose tool
- Copies of important personal documents (birth certificates, list of medications or medical information, proof of address, passports, etc.)
- Cell phone and portable chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra money
- Extra set of car and/or house jets
- Pet supplies
Make sure to take your family members’ needs into account when creating an emergency preparedness kit—young children could benefit from the addition of games or familiar toys to help them stay calm.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A WILDFIRE
By the end of August, the total number of fires raging across California was over 6,000. Evacuations were ordered, and many residents had to flee their homes. Knowing what the do in the event of a sudden evacuation can save the lives of you and your family.
HAVE AN EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS PLAN
Wildfires can pop up with little warning and can spread across acres in a matter of minutes. If there are fires in your area, stay up to date with information and watch for your area’s evacuation orders. Ensure that you and your family have an evacuation plan in place that is easy to follow for all members of your family. Follow these tips to make a fire evacuation go more smoothly:
- Talk with younger children in advance to help them feel prepared and less afraid if a wildfire does force an evacuation.
- Make sure to check your emergency preparedness kit every few months to replenish any supplies.
- Have a plan for temporary housing with a friend outside the threatened area or research and know which shelter you need to go to before being forced to move.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS & SOLAR ENERGY FAQ
Here are some frequently asked questions about blackouts, solar energy, and utilities:
DO SOLAR PANELS WORK DURING BLACKOUTS?
The short answer to this is: sometimes. Solar panels alone aren’t enough to power your home after the sun has gone down, but adding energy storage like the Tesla Powerwall will keep your lights on even during a blackout.
HOW LONG DO SOLAR BATTERIES LAST?
The lifespan of your energy storage system can depend on the kind of battery system you invest in. The Tesla Powerwall comes with a 10-year limited warranty and can be expected to last anywhere from 10-20 years, depending on how much you use it as a main source of power.
WHAT IS A PSPS?
PSPS stands for Public Safety Power Shutoff. This is the course of action a utility company will take when high temperatures, extreme dryness, or high winds threaten any part of the electrical system. Because California is so prone to wildfires, the right conditions can cause SDG&E and other power companies to cut the power in high-risk areas.
WHAT IS A ROLLING BLACKOUT?
A rolling blackout is another term for the PSPS. A rolling blackout is usually implemented as a last resort in situations where the demand for power exceeds the supply capacity. During a rolling blackout, utilities shut off the power to different areas of the distribution region in order to avoid a total blackout of the power system.
The last time a widespread blackout happened was in the Great Blackout of 2011, when a technician’s mistake caused power outages in parts of California, Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona and left some 7 million people without power.
WHAT IS THE MEDICAL BASELINE?
The Medical Baseline Allowance is a program from SDG&E that allows customers with qualifying medical conditions or needs to receive more electricity or gas at a discounted cost. The medical baseline program won’t guarantee that you will have energy even in the event of a power outage, so it’s important to prepare a backup power supply such as a generator or solar energy with battery storage.
WHAT IS EQUITY RESILIENCY?
The Self-Generated Incentive Program (SGIP) provides rebates for installing an energy storage system such as the Tesla Powerwall to critical facilities as well as low-income, at-risk, or vulnerable customers.
If you live in a tier 2 or 3 high fire-threat district OR have experienced two or more public safety power shutoffs and meet one of the following requirements, you may be eligible:
- Eligible for the equity budget
- Eligible for the medical baseline
- Have a serious illness or condition that could become threatened if disconnected
76% of the SGIP budget is set aside for equity resiliency purposes. The incentive level is set at $1,000/kWh—enough to “fully or nearly fully subsidize the installation of a storage system.”
At HES Solar, we’re dedicated to helping you and your family stay safe and informed during an emergency. If you’re interested in learning more about energy independence, SGIP, or solar energy, contact our team at (619) 350-0032. We’ll answer any questions about SGIP eligibility and take care of the application process for you.