Following last month’s KosAbility story on the harsh consequences of disasters and climate chaos events for disabled and elder people, PG&E posed a new challenge — turning off the power for days. Normal autumn weather conditions in California produce high winds (Diablo winds in NorCal and Santa Ana winds in SoCal) that increase wildfire risk. Decades of PG&E failing to maintain their equipment and encroaching vegetation led to a higher risk of power line failure that, combined with dry vegetation and strong gusty winds, would (and has) caused catastrophic fires. PG&E de-energized electric lines in NorCal to limit wildfire risk from their equipment. Some people (like me) only lost power for 28 hours, others went four or five days. Many in the Camp Fire area were without power from Tuesday until sometime Saturday.
Officially these blackouts are called Public Safety Power Shutoffs by PG&E, but the methods of advanced notice and preparations did little to promote public safety. My county wasn’t on the initial blackout list, so we were warned only a few hours before the power went out. The reason for the blackout in Humboldt County (NW coast) wasn’t a high fire danger weather but because the transmission lines carrying power to the county pass through high fire risk areas.
Other people were ill-prepared because the PG&E website with maps that reportedly would inform the status of each customer based on their address crashed. Get this — PG&E proposed to turn off power to 800,000 customers for one to several days but didn’t bother to ensure their website could handle the traffic. The State of California finally helped to boost the capacity for site visitors.
Disability activist Alice Wong from SF Bay area posted this message on social media.
If you do not have a back up power system (generator, etc) and you need power, the Emergency Preparedness folks are saying Go to your local hospital (probably the ER waiting room) for power. That is literally their only (non)plan.
Yup folks. According to various Mayor and state official's offices, there is NO plan to help anyone who needs power for medical reasons. NONE.
Yes, we are on our own.
Calif. officials say man using oxygen tank died within minutes of PG&E power shutoff
The family of a northern California man who died within minutes of power being cut to his home blamed the planned power outage for his death, as he required an oxygen tank to breathe. . .
...Fire officials from the El Dorado County town of Pollock Pine say the man . . . died approximately 12 minutes after PG&E cut power to his home on Wednesday.
His family members told reporters that [the man] used an oxygen tank because he suffered from COPD and congestive heart failure. Fire officials said he was wearing his oxygen mask when he was found unresponsive.
The main rebuttal to disabled folks ranting about PG&E blackout problems is saying we should have back up generators. But many people dependent on electricity to survive live in places (apartments, condos for example) that do not allow generators.
Portable power stations, some rechargeable by solar, are cheaper than generators but more limited in output. The $500 Anker 400Wh powerhouse will run CPAPs, but none of those I looked at online is rated for other medical devices. Nor is it clear how a person with physical disabilities, such as someone needing a lift to move from bed to chair, can deal with a powerhouse or a generator. Even keeping medicines refrigerated is difficult during a power outage. Yes a cooler of ice will help, but who hauls home the ice and how long will this be cold enough? I wish I could offer specific solutions to any of these problems, but the fix requires a major retro-fit of society, private utilities, and utility oversight agencies.
It’s not just the consequences of climate chaos harming disabled people, inaccessible physical issues obstruct our ability to protest. And even when a group purposefully makes a protest more inclusive, the Powers That Be can swoop in and dismantle the accessibility arrangements.
Anger as police confiscate Extinction Rebellion accessible toilets, ramps and wheelchairs
A police force has been accused of discrimination and “abusive” behaviour after confiscating ramps, wheelchairs and even accessible toilets that were intended to make this week’s Extinction Rebellion climate change protests in London more inclusive – and safer – for disabled activists.
Members of the Disabled Rebels group had spent months working with the organisers of Extinction Rebellion (XR) to ensure that the protests taking place this week and next would be accessible and inclusive, as reported last week by Disability News Service.
But the Metropolitan police have sabotaged those preparations by impounding two mobile accessible toilets that had been rented by XR, and arresting two members of staff working for the charity that was providing the equipment. . . [and a raid to seize] independent living aids and other equipment being stored by XR.
Organisers said later that the equipment seized included wheelchairs, ramps, noise-cancelling headphones for autistic protesters, camp beds for those unable to sleep on the floor, and solar-powered charging equipment for wheelchairs and scooters.
As a result of the seizure of this equipment and the accessible toilets two days later, plans for a disability hub in St James’s Park had to be abandoned.
Help disabled disaster survivors in the Bahamas
People in the Bahamas still struggle to survive the consequences of Hurricane Dorian.
Go outside and look up. For me, the best part of the blackout was nighttime sky viewing. Where I live there are no street lights, no traffic lights, no retail lights, and relatively few private residences with never-night lights so I can see the Milky Way whenever it’s not cloudy. But during the blackout, the sky was especially star-filled. Tonight the Milky Way display will be surpassed by the moon.
If you notice the moon to be larger and unusually orange in color on October 13, don't be alarmed as this is a natural phenomenon called the 'Hunter's moon.'
According to NASA, it will reach its peak at 5.08 pm EDT on Sunday afternoon, October 13, 2019. The upcoming full moon will appear to be in a larger shape and perfect circle for roughly three days as opposed to one. Beginning from Saturday morning, Hunter's moon will be visible until Tuesday morning.
REMEMBER OUR MEETING IS IN TWO WEEKS, 27 OCTOBER, AT 4PM PT (7PM ET)