USA: California power shutoff: How PG&E's actions hit the medically vulnerable the hardest
by Vivian Ho
In a state gripped by climate crisis, where the biggest utility was found at fault in two of the deadliest wildfires in recent history, these preventive shutoffs are set to become the new normal. But the impacts of these power cuts are being disproportionately borne by the physically vulnerable, disability rights advocates said.
And for Californians like Mediati who rely on electronic medical devices, access to electricity is a matter of life or death.
In the latest shutoff in northern California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) cut the power to portions of 34 of the state’s 58 counties on Wednesday, a move that affects more than 1.5 million people. Of those affected, more than 30,000 are part of a medical baseline program, meaning they have special energy needs due to qualifying medical conditions.
These energy needs range from motorized wheelchairs, ventilators, dialysis machines, apnea monitors, electrostatic nebulizers to respirators – all of which require power to operate. In the aftermath of the shutdown, people dependent on these devices were scrambling to find alternative power sources, places to charge them or other ways to get through what was originally slated to be up to five to seven days of no electricity.