Manteca is putting together an emergency plan to help guide the city through what could be up to five days of being without electricity as California moves into uncharted territory with widespread power outages being deployed during severe wildfire conditions to try and avoid massive losses of lives and homes.
City Manager Tim Ogden designated Manteca Fire Battalion Chief Dave Marques to serve as point for the city’s emergency planning. Marques is working with police and public works representatives to put in place a game plan to allow the city to deal with the real possibility there will be no electricity for periods of up to five days as PG&E’s answer to addressing concerns that their power lines and equipment could trigger repeats of wildfires in Napa, Sonoma and Butte counties in 2018 and 2018 that killed 109 people and burning in excess of 19,000 homes in addition to destroying more than 8,000 other structures.
The biggest concerns in terms of city issues that could develop during a prolonged outrage are:
uHeat related illness and emergencies given conditions that would lead to the power being turned off is when temperatures are in the 90s and 100s.
uFires locally given water pressure issues would develop fairly quickly as the surface water treatment system tanks and lines have enough water on hand at any given time to meet needs for six hours. Also not all of the municipal wells have generators. Reduced pressure renders sprinkler systems new homes in recent years have been required to install ineffective.
uIf a wildfire does break out when PG&E de-energizes the transmission line due to extreme conditions, Manteca crews would likely be dispatched — along with those in nearby departments — to help fight the blaze. That would put added pressure on remaining personnel that are expected to be handling a significant increase in calls, particularly for medical emergencies. Compounding the problem is nearby agencies would be taxed as well making calls for assistance problematic.
In addition city-related issues would also center on the fact all street lights would go dark, traffic signals would not operate not even in default flashing red light mode, and communication with the city’s 83,750 residents would be difficult with the loss of Internet, phone service and TV.
Manteca — an virtually all of San Joaquin County — will have power cutoff for periods of two to five days when conditions in fire prone areas in the foothills and mountains to the east served by the same transmission lines that supply valley communities with critical mass. The ingredients that fan wildfires are high winds, low humidity, dry vegetation and hot temperatures.
“We plan to have town hall type of meetings with a PG&E representative present to educate people on what they need to do,” Marques said.
The goal is to inform the City Council Tuesday of the basic outline of the city’s emergency plan and then start informing the public about what they need to do to weather prolonged outages.
Marques noted time is of the essence given that temperatures have started climbing past the 90-degree mark.
“This has been assigned as my top priority,” Marques said.
Agencies from throughout San Joaquin County gathered Tuesday at the Office of Emergency Services where they met with PG&E representatives. Concerns were expressed about hospitals, convalescent hospitals, and people with medical issues that reside in private homes being prepared.
Marques noted Manteca is “way out front” as other agencies did not pay as much attention initially to the PG&E communication.
Marques noted it will be up to residents to be prepared to be able to deal with the prolonged outages that may take place with only a few hours of notice.
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