Community Spotlight: Bay Area power outages

November 14, 2019

Community+Spotlight%3A+Bay+Area+power+outages

Public safety power shutoffs proliferated across Marin County starting late Oct. 26, forcing Branson to close for three days. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. shut off power across much of Northern California, attempting to prevent fires in the region.
At the shutoff’s peak, 99 percent of Marin lost power and some parts lost cellular service, according to the Marin Independent Journal. Branson only reopened on Oct. 31.
The Blazer has assembled Branson perspectives on the shutoffs.

Robbie Duncan (’23)

How did the outage affect you and your family?
“Well, we lost power on the first night when it ran out, and it was actually kind of surprising because I wasn’t actually ready, but it was honestly kind of relieving in a way because I usually spend a lot of time on my electronics. So, it was pretty cool because I got to go out and rid my bike when it wasn’t really bad air quality, and got to do a lot of fun things with friends around the area. We were one of the lucky people who got our power back fairly quickly, so after that, we had almost three days of power with no school, which is pretty cool.”

Are you and your family making any plans in anticipation of future outages?
“We were already somewhat prepared, as my parents had already invested in a generator, years before, so we had one at the ready so we didn’t lose any food or anything, so that was good. But, I think, my mom got a little paranoid, so she bought fire escape ladders, but otherwise, I think we were pretty well-prepared.”

Maya King (’21)

Are you and your family making any plans in anticipation of future outages?
“We’ll probably buy more batteries, because we ran out of batteries [during the outage] and some of our lanterns went out. That’s really all that I know of.”

Were there positive sides to being off the grid?
“I mean, we didn’t get killed or lose the house in a fire – but that’s it. Being off the grid didn’t help me at all. The main thing was I couldn’t communicate with people…and it was only three days, so [the lack of communication] didn’t have any [positive] effect on my mental health.”

Ruby Clarke (’20)

Are you and your family making any plans in anticipation of future outages?
“My mom works for the County, so we have done all of that – ‘make your go bag,’ ‘make your plan’ stuff. I have cats, so we make sure that we always have like five days of extra food so that they don’t starve. And then we have general safety stuff – like we have enough water for a long time, in old Kombucha bottles we got from Costco. We’ve done all of that preparation stuff – which made it a lot less stressful when the power went out.”

Were there positive sides to being off the grid?
“Since we didn’t have school, I was actually able to work on my college essays, which were due – and I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten everything done if I had needed to go to school and do homework. So, there were some ways that it gave me more time…and it also gave me way more sleep. I was getting so much sleep because I didn’t have anything else to do, and I couldn’t really do anything in the dark!”

Atticus, Latin Teacher

How did the outage impact you and your family?
“It was like camping, as my son said. My son loved it. But there were two main inconveniences. First, the fact that the refrigerator and freezer had to be saved somehow. We put dry ice in the refrigerator, and we moved some things to a cooler, which we were able to fill with ice…And the other problem was that we got really cold at night, because the thermostat is electric, so we didn’t have any heat. And it was really quiet, which actually made it hard to sleep. But other that we were great! We had candles and flashlights, and we had internet for a day.”

Were there positive sides to being off the grid?
“Yes! It was really fun for my son and me. His school was cancelled as well, so it was like a mini stay-cation. I think my son will always remember it as an exciting event. And we were forced to unplug from the internet. That’s always good, I think, to have a time when you can’t be on the internet and you have to talk to each other and read books and go for walks.”

How did the outage impact instructional plans?
“On Saturday afternoon, I learned that school would be closed on the following Monday, so I changed all my plans for each of my four classes – figuring out how I could move things around to minimize the impact. But then, on Monday, when I discovered that school would be out on Tuesday and Wednesday, I knew that I would have to wait to know when classes would resume before I could make any changes. I ended up basically picking up where I left off. And, as a result, some classes will be rushed later on, but, in general, I was able to make it work.”

Jenni Owen-Blackmon, Branson Communications Director

How did the outage impact Branson?
“The most important thing for us was making sure that our students were safe, that the faculty and staff who live on campus were safe, and that we were able to provide academic instruction and experiences that we needed to provide, but do it in a manner that was going to be safe, so that’s why the decisions were made to cancel schools on the days that were canceled. So obviously, we lost, I guess, a sum total of three days of classes and two days of extracurricular and other activities, so that’s substantial. But, I think the good news is that we were able to make sure that everybody in our community was kept as safe as possible.”

Is Branson making any plans in anticipation of future outages?
“You know, we already had an effort that had been taken place. We have plans in place, we have protocols, we have incident command teams that are used to handling things like this, and so I think that we were well-prepared for that, but of course, this is a new situation, and we expect that power outages will happen in the future, so it has caused us to take a look at some of our processes, and just tweak things a little bit. We learned some things in the course of this that we’re applying to our future plans.”

Were there positive sides to being off the grid?
“Well, I’m from the Northeast, and we have snow days there a lot, and obviously, it’s very rare to have a situation where students are at home with their families spending time unplugged, and I have to think that there could’ve been some positives from that. I hope it provided an opportunity for families to gather together a little bit more, and explore some ways of being together that didn’t involve being attached to their electronics all the time; so, I hope that that was a benefit of it, you know, we always like to look for the silver lining for things, even though it wasn’t what we all hoped for.”

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