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How to Prepare for a Power Outage During Wildfire Weather

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Southern California Edison cut power for more than 12,000 of its customers on Thursday, as strong winds and dry conditions increased the risk of wildfires across the state.

With a red flag warning expected to remain in effect through 6 p.m. Friday, dozens of thousands more could potentially lose electricity.

In addition to basic emergency preparations—like having a first-aid kit, having canned foods and enough drinking water for each person and pet, and keeping medications handy—here are some tips from utility and public officials:

Before a possible power outage

  • Keep your car's gas tank at least half full at all times.
  • Have a few coolers or ice chests in case of a long outage.
  • Secure electronic equipment by installing surge protectors.
  • Learn how to turn off utility boxes at your home, including electric, water and gas.
  • Those who own a portable gas generator should determine an outdoor location, away from windows, where it can be safely used. Never operate it indoors, SoCal Gas said. (See more generator safety tips here.)
  • Keep emergency cash.

During a power outage

  • Check for blown fuses or tripped circuits that might have caused the power loss. To see if there's an outage, check if your neighbor has electricity.
  • Leave one light switch on and turn off the rest.
  • Unplug your TV, air conditioner, computers and other electronics to avoid power surge damage. Plug them again once power is back.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is closed to avoid food spoilage. Refrigerators typically keep food cool for about four hours, and a freezer for about 48 hours.
  • Don't light fires or charcoal indoors. "If you are cold during a power outage, wear multiple layers of warm clothing," SoCal Edison advised.
  • See a downed power line? Promptly call 911.
  • Be extra careful when driving and be aware of others, especially on dark roads. Avoid unnecessary cellphone use.
    • During a blackout, signals will operate normally for about three hours before they become "red flash" signals, Caltrans said. Lights will go black during outages exceeding six hours. In this instance, motorists should treat them as stop signs.
  • If you're in an elevator, take the following steps, per SoCal Edison:
  • Press the “Open” button: If you are near a landing the door will open. Exit the elevator slowly and carefully, as it may not be level with the landing.
  • Press the “Alarm” or “Help” button: Trained emergency personnel will respond within several minutes. Some elevators have a two-way speaker system or telephone. Do not be alarmed if you cannot make an outgoing call. Some phones are designed to only receive calls. Emergency personnel should call when they arrive at the building.
  • Calmly call for help: Every few minutes, call for help or bang on the elevator door to attract attention.
  • Wait for help: Never try to exit through partially opened doors or a ceiling service door. Wait for trained emergency personnel to arrive. Even though it may get warm, plenty of air is circulating in the elevator.
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