Help for People With Disabilities During California Power Outages Remains a Work in Progress

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A car drives passed a power station in Mill Valley, Calif., as a blackout continues on Oct., 10, 2019. More than a million Californians were without electricity due to pre-emptive blackouts to prevent wildfires. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

A car drives passed a power station in Mill Valley, Calif., as a blackout continues on Oct., 10, 2019. More than a million Californians were without electricity due to pre-emptive blackouts to prevent wildfires.
(JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

As wildfires continue to rage across California, thousands of residents prepared for more power outages this weekend. The most recent blackouts — intended to prevent fires sparked by windblown power lines — began last week and have already affected more than half a million residents, adding particular stress to those with disabilities.

In an ideal world, the most vulnerable communities would have received months of advance notice from Pacific Gas & Electric and from Southern California Edison about the power shut-offs, with ample time to plan. That’s what Lenka Vodicka of Nevada City, Calif., would have preferred as she faced her second power outage in less than two weeks, with a warning of another coming soon.

Vodicka has a chronic genetic disease. When she falls out of step with her routine, her immune system is weakened. Vodicka doesn’t struggle as much as those on ventilators or those who rely on electric wheelchairs, but her situation is representative of what many with disabilities face under the stress of rushing to find alternative solutions to sustain their health. A 48-hour notice — the standard for warning — is not always enough time to make arrangements for backup respirators or physical assistance.

“I feel like it’s a huge pitfall that no one approached me about” the state’s medical baseline mitigation program, she said.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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