After breaking out that old flashlight to root around your house following PG&E’s preemptive power shutoff, you might be wondering what you can do without any electricity.
Well, your cell phone might die any minute and chess gets old real fast when you’re playing in the dark.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. made the unprecedented decision to cut power to at least 500,000 customers early Wednesday morning, a move aimed at preventing wildfires across Northern California that could leave as many as 2 million people without power.
If you’re among those PG&E customers affected by the shutoff, here’s what might still work in your home even without power.
Your water may or may not go out when an outage hits, according to the Department of Homeland Security, but water contamination is a possibility either way.
In rural areas and in high-rise apartment buildings, water is usually delivered to your taps via electric pumps, which will stop functioning in the event of an outage.
Inside houses in more urban environments, water is typically drawn from nearby bodies of water such as rivers and lakes and stored in high-elevation towers. The force of gravity delivers the water to residents, but during an outage, the water supply is limited to the amount in the tank and could run out during a lengthy outage.
As long as there is still water, your sinks, non-pressure-assisted toilets and tank-style water heaters should still work. If you run out of water, but have some bottled or stored water, you can pour it into your toilet to flush it.
Before drinking or cooking with any of your available tap water, you should boil it first to make sure it is not contaminated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — but will your stove work?
Obviously, your electric range or induction stove top will not work in a blackout, but gas stoves are more complicated, as they use both gas and electricity.
In general, most gas appliances will still work, including the water heater, but gas stove burners are typically lit by electric ignition systems.
You can use a match to light the burners and cook on the stove, but your gas oven still relies on electricity and likely will not work. Never use a gas stove to warm up, as this can fill your home with deadly carbon monoxide.
As far is your car is concerned, it’s better to prepare and fill up your tank beforehand since there’s no guarantee that gas stations will be in service.
Gas stations need electricity to power their pumps, but some are equipped with transfer switches and backup generators. California Highway Patrol in Gold Run said Wednesday that serviceable gas stations over the Sierra Nevada were limited due to PG&E’s blackouts.
The California Fuels and Convenience Alliance, a gas station trade association, said in a news release that gas stations in PG&E’s blackout area were inundated with overwhelming amounts of desperate customers.
Although the trade association said gas stations equipped with generators are still operating, gas supply is a concern for the duration of the outage.
“The reality is that gas stations can only store a finite supply of fuel in their tanks at any given time,” CFCA said in a prepared statement. “And, a mass influx of customers resulting from fears over future availability will create shortages at local stations and convenience stores.”
When your cell phone dies a few hours into the blackout, you might want to dig your old landline out of the attic.
Not a cordless landline with a base, however, as those rely on the charging dock to make calls. But the dinosaur that plugs right into the wall should still work, as it draws power externally from the phone exchange.
But if your phone network is disrupted by the power outage, then that could go out the window, too.
T-Mobile notified its customers Wednesday that it was monitoring the outage situation and was working with PG&E to keep its network up, with backup generators on hand.