While people pontificate about what should or shouldn’t happen to PG&E after this recent potential disaster and power shut off, it was a good wake-up call for small rural communities on emergency disaster planning.
Comptche is a quintessential small town with a store with one gas pump, post office, school, church, and a volunteer fire department. We did OK during the power loss because everyone was doing what they could to help friends and neighbors. You KNOW you live in a small town when the generator goes down at the store at 10p.m. and the storeowner can call on local mechanics who show up and help fix it and get it running.
As a community nobody griped when the store limited gas purchases to five gallons so the 600 gallons of fuel delivered could fuel 120 generators around town. The volunteer fire department opened the firehouse five hours a day for people to recharge electrical devices and people could take four-minute hot showers.
The Halloween Parade from Comptche School to Firehouse Park took place followed by Trunk or Treat which is trick or treating done from car to car in the parking lot. Everyone was sharing adventures minus electricity between passing out goodies to ghosts and goblins.
While we didn’t open our emergency shelter, all of us who are working on its organization were keeping mental “what if?…” lists of things we need to consider in our community. Who needs power to run a c-pap machine at night? Does anyone use an electric power lift to get from their bed to a wheelchair and if so, what’s powering it? Is there anyone in town who relies solely on electric heat in their home? Does everyone know to keep generators some distance from the house and not on the front porch? If the high-low siren the County sheriff’s office talks about went off could Comptche folks spread out along innumerable dirt roads hear it? On this last point we KNOW our volunteer fire department would be out on those roads alerting homeowners in case of emergency.
Think of the Boy Scout’s motto and “Be Prepared.” Everything you’ve read about Go-Bags and stocking emergency supplies is true. If you have a generator and you can’t get gas, what do you do next? If you don’t have a landline telephone (and even they don’t work all the time) how will family and friends know you’re OK?
How will you know what’s happening? That’s where your local fire department comes to the forefront. They DO know what’s going on. Go visit them for info. Better yet give them a cash donation so they can keep being the community information center. Participate in local emergency shelter planning. We were lucky we had lovely weather for a five-day power shut off, even if it was nippy at night.
As a county we all learned something from this non-emergency that could help in the future. If you’re an individual, a family, or a community everyone can learn how to be better prepared.