It looks like Alameda County is coming out mostly unscathed following the panic of last week’s PG&E safety power shutoff.
Both State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) praised local first responders and emergency personnel for their coordination of relief efforts during the power outage.
However, that burden, said Bauer-Kahan, should have been on the shoulders of the power giant.
Instead, AC Alert, Alameda County’s official text and call alert system, handled the majority of the live updates to people in the area, as PG&E’s website suffered numerous crashes due to heavy traffic from users looking for the latest on the power shutoffs.
“What PG&E didn’t do was keep the information flowing,” Bauer-Kahan said. “And failed in updating the community.”
There’s a lesson to be learned from an emergency in Moraga, where an accidental brush fire sent the city’s fire department scrambling in an area without electricity or cell service. Without the “real coordination” of the Moraga Fire Department and other city officials, said Bauer-Kahan, putting out the fire — or even a larger fire — could have proved much more difficult, especially with limited phone service.
Meanwhile, Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton reported no problems during the power shutdown, which seemed to affect only a few outlying areas.
Pleasanton, like many other communities in the county, prepared an emergency center for residents to gather. At the Pleasanton Public Library, there were charging stations, water, snacks and emergency generators for residents in need.
According to Pleasanton Public Information Officer Cindy Chin, the city was well prepared for any anomalies that could have popped up, especially considering the closest PG&E-run resource center was miles away in Oakland.
“We had an emergency operation center and a disaster preparation plan already in place,” she said. “Our city employees are also emergency trained to deal with situations like these.”
With fears that the strong winds would reach the valley floor — they didn’t — and with PG&E’s website down, the city also took it upon itself to provide online maps for residents indicating where the power would go out.
And just like the rest of the county, AC Alert — along with Facebook and Nextdoor — were instrumental in picking up where PG&E dropped the ball.
“We didn’t get any distressing response on our hotlines,” Chin said. “We hope that’s the result of our frequent communications with residents.”
Still, officials, including Bauer-Kahan, are searching for answers that would prevent future wide-spread power shutoffs. Bauer-Kahan said she is exploring possible legislation. “PG&E has put profits over constituents,” she said, “when we all should be considering safety.”