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City of St. Helena

If intensified wildfires and power shutdowns are “the new normal” we must make preparation a normal routine both within our government agencies and our communities. Proactive preparation will put us in the best position to deal with any eventuality.

As discussed in recent workshops like the St. Helena Preparedness Fairs in April and May, everyone should have a “Go Bag” containing daily essentials and an established written emergency plan. Practices of home fire hardening, including creating defensible space and choosing less flammable landscaping plants, as well as forest management in our rural/urban interface areas, are key to resilience, as are establishment of neighborhood communication networks.

Please be aware that your plan should anticipate power shutdowns lasting several days. To this end it is most critical for everyone to keep on hand a three-day supply of emergency food and water for both humans and pets/animals. These items can be compiled at home or are available prepackaged online or through agencies like the Red Cross. In the event of a power shutdown St. Helena will make available City buildings with emergency power to the drop-in public for charging communication devices. We also anticipate establishing designated shelters and/or cooling centers if they are needed.

In addition to potential impacts on local residents, power shutoffs will also affect local businesses. The City has advised our businesses to prepare for possible power outages and explore possibilities for redundant power/generators to minimize disruption of services and limit possible economic impacts. If businesses or residents are considering generator use it is important to do so under guidance from knowledgeable professionals. The City is also discussing with industry representatives how micro grid technology may add further resilience to our community.

In summary, we must all take it upon ourselves to be as prepared as possible in the event of emergency, including power shutdowns. This not only protects us if no one can get to us, but frees up capacity for first responders to help others in need.

Here are links to City, County and PG&E websites with more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

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Geoff Ellsworth is mayor of St. Helena.