The Aftermath of the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff

Emerson Brown, Stella Heo, Katrina Ortman, Staff Writers

// The seconds ticked by as residents waited for the power to go out. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. Nothing. The lights were still on. 

   PG&E initiated a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) all across Northern California, affecting the Acalanes District from about 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10. PG&E delayed the PSPS several times, resulting in confusion and misinformation.

   Many Acalanes students received a Nixlealertt on Tuesday night stating that PG&E would be conducting a PSPS beginning at midnight on Tuesday. Throughout Wednesday, students then received a barrage of follow up texts all delaying the outage because the weather did not warrant a PSPS.

   Homes and schools that were scheduled to be affected prepared frantically for the PSPS to span a full two days. Teachers rewrote lesson plans, parents stocked up on gas and necessities, and students charged up their devices as a precaution for school. To some, the delays were inconvenient because it seemed like PG&E had exaggerated the full scope of the PSPS.

   Not only did people not know when their power was going to go out, but many didn’t know if it was going out at all. Due to inconsistent updates on maps of affected areas, students were left wondering whether they would be able to access homework or communicate with teachers.

   “Living in 2019, we sort of assume a right to electricity because it is so heavily incorporated into our lives, making it harder to accept PG&E’s frequent flaws,” senior Jamie Bishop said.

   The prospect of not having power also prompted many teachers to alter lessons and due dates to accommodate students’ needs.

   “I have extended the due date of an essay twice in order to accommodate because I don’t want to be unfair to the students who might not have power and don’t know when that power is going to come back on,” English teacher Shimyun Cotter said. 

   Without electricity, some students wouldn’t be able to turn in their assignments online even if it was completed, causing major complications in terms of their grades. Even though not all students lost power, teachers could not take points off for something that the students had no control over, and teachers changed their lessons accordingly.

   While Acalanes High School did not lose power, Campolindo and Miramonte High School were left in the dark. Students from these schools had contrasting views on how their school day was affected. Depending on which classes a student took and each teacher’s lesson plan, the effects of the power outage varied.

   “My math and AP physics class were the most affected today as those teachers tend to use projectors to show notes and teach. My other classes happened like they normally do, just slightly darker,” Campolindo sophomore Vivian Zerkle said.

   Many people were angered at the control PG&E has over Northern California. Electricity is a utility that society has grown accustomed to, and going dark was a huge shock. 

   “I think it’s illegal that they have a utility monopoly. I think that it does more damage to PG&E, and if it wasn’t a monopoly, then PG&E would be too afraid to do something like this,” computer science teacher Jennifer Gilson said. 

   PG&E is the only major utility company in Northern California, and many residents saw this PSPS as PG&E avoiding a lawsuit for starting another fire. They are still reeling with the complications from several major fires across the past decade that PG&E has been blamed for.

   “I’m angry about how they have had two years to think about this problem and if this is the best solution they could come up within two years, that’s pretty pathetic,” history teacher Joe Schottland said.

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