[conspire] power outage, emergencies, fast newsy information, etc.

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Sun Jan 31 19:18:24 PST 2010

Good points made else-thread.
Trying not to be too redundant, I'll add:

o have the emergency information handy
o be sure to have it in form/location(s) that will work in emergency
o downed lines, arcing (e.g. tree branches) in high voltage lines, are
   emergencies, use the correct number(s)
o down power lines should be presumed to be energized - just because
   they're not putting on a sparks display doesn't mean they're not
o my/our power is out is not an emergency, don't use emergency resources
o personal/localized emergencies are different than larger-scale
o in larger scale events/emergencies, many more resources won't be
   available or will be heavily burdened or overburdened, e.g.:
   o stay off the phone lines if it's not an emergency
   o if it is an emergency, stay on the line, one may have to wait a fair
     while for dial tone
   o cellular phones are good for "personal" emergencies; cellular towers
     will generally fail after several hours or more of prolonged power
     outage conditions (they tend to have UPSes but not backup generator
   o hospitals may be overburdened - knowing CPR and first aid would be a
     good thing.
   o be prepared to be self-sufficient without utilities
     (electricity/water/gas/...) for at least 72 hours
   o Your ISP service(s) may be out (may depend mostly on how it's
     delivered to your location)
   o Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) line is generally most probable
     utility to survive (possibly excepting sewer service, and perhaps
     water - which may or may not be safe to drink)
   o then there's Amateur radio, neighborhood watch, ...

PG&E's web site and power outage status details?  Can't totally fault
PG&E for that (it's much better than it was years ago).  Also, PG&E
doesn't get blow-by-blow updates from the field back to where they
update information on the web site, etc.  So they mostly know stuff
regarding about how much power is out about where and to about how many
customers.  If you manage to find a PG&E work crew working on a problem
(rather than cruising around looking for source of the problem),
and can manage to safely (and legally) chat them up a bit about
situation and status, you'll typically get information on what's going
on that's about 30 minutes or so more ahead of any updates that'll show
up on PG&E's website or that one can get from calling PG&E's phone

Also, there are other very timely sources :-) ... e.g. lots more folks
about that can use, e.g. Twitter, compared to the number of humans PG&E
has working for them to update information on their web site and
computers for the web site and their folks handling the phones to be
able to provide more detailed information on exactly what's going on and
where.  E.g., from recent power outage at my work location (I was
oncall, includes production equipment at that location, but nothing that
has any real-time impacts on customer Internet facing services):

> From: Michael Paoli
> Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 5:49 PM
> To: <redacted>
> Cc: <redacted>
> Subject: highly timely newsy information: e.g. power outage,  
> twitter, & PG&E work & location; etc.
> Twitter can be a highly useful source of very timely (and newsy)  
> information (though there can be signal-to-noise and/or credibility  
> issues).
> E.g. yesterday, when power was out, we never got information from  
> PG&E (by phone or web site) more detailed information than  
> essentially/approximately:
> numbers of outages and customers out down to zip code and:
> "we don't know what the problem is yet, our trucks our out looking  
> for the problem"
> ... meanwhile, with some searches on twitter, found:
> sebastiankunz PIC: pg&e power restoration effort, Townsend at 4th  
> st, SF. http://tweetphoto.com/9181434. #storm #outage
> about 22 hours ago from TweetDeck
> (that was about 7:30 P.M. last night)
> and from that link:
> http://tweetphoto.com/9181434
> There's photo showing PG&E work crew in action, that is at 4th &  
> Towmsend - e.g. compare to Google street view for perspective:
> http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=san+francisco,+ca&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=59.337006,89.560547&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=San+Francisco,+California&ll=37.776846,-122.395291&spn=0.007344,0.01502&z=17&layer=c&cbll=37.776911,-122.395208&panoid=Qlq0xqZ7udehIgM3QfEXlQ&cbp=12,90.07,,0,-4.51
> More examples of the power and immediacy of Twitter search results,  
> see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n_EitPb7BU

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