Buy one of those crankup radios and keep it set to 1070. When Malibu goes dark, this is how to find out if it is a region-wide outage or just us. Listen for the traffic reports on the 5s. That's where KNX will broadcast listener reports, as in "we're getting reports from our listeners that all the signals are out in Malibu."
Crankup flashlights are indispensable. They sell bright red ones at Ikea for $5, that look like peppermills. No batteries, they use capacitors and LEDs, and they really work. Item two is a battery-powered lantern, like the old kerosene ones but powered by C or D cells. Buy a whole bunch of C or D batteries.
Find a potted plant and pile your radio and flashlights behind there. Leave them there. Do not take them camping.
Years ago, I removed an ugly hallway light and thus had a hole in the ceiling. I put in a recessed emergency evacuation light. They make some nice architectural ones such as http://www.lithonia.com/pt/emergency/c/emergency+lighting+units.
After 15 years the constant-charge battery finally died, so I replaced the unit for $54 three weeks ago. Malibu Anawalt sadly doesn't have access to them, but the wholesalers in West LA keep them in stock. Power goes out, bright light comes on, and stays on for 12 hours.
Jiffypop Popcorn cooks on a gas range and leaves no mess. It keeps forever. Put a barbeque lighter in the knife drawer because the electronic ignition won't work. Munchies in the dark are perfidious.
Put all the network hard drives, modem, cable DVRs, etc in one place, if possible, and plug them all into a heavy-duty power strip. Turn the power strip off as fast as possible when the power fails. You do not want them powering up as the voltage fluctuates when the power comes back. And turn off this strip for eight hours every once in a while, to drain UPS or modem batteries to the bottom. Supposedly this improves battery life. Or maybe not, but it can't hurt.
Leaving a computer plugged in means nothing. They can handle 220 volts and will not (generally) fry on power restoration. A hard drive, however, is directly powered and at risk.
Did you notice how the lights went out, then after about 20 seconds came back for a flash? Power companies have automatic reset devices. When a line shorts out, they wait 20 or 30 seconds, then re-energize. If they detect a short, they de-energize. This happened twice Saturday night. That is why it is critical to never ever touch a downed line. They can re-energize automatically!
Shut off big power hogs, like a pool pump or spa filter. When power comes back on, they can drain a lot of juice and cause problems. Turn them back on manually after normalcy arrives.
Diversify information services. Do not bundle. Choose your providers wisely.
Charter has never recovered its black eye from when its entire western LA County blacked out for a week when the single fiber line to the outside world failed in the 2007 fire. I still do not trust them, and until they show me they have more than one connection from Malibu to Earth I would never rely solely on them.
It costs a little more, but do not bundle. I use separate companies for cell (Sprint), landline (Verizon), and TV (DISH). Satellite TV, in my opinion, is very important. I cannot tell you how often my neighbors came over to my house to see the fires on TV when the cable was out.
Keep an old-fashioned Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) house phone line. These used to be old 1950s copper lines going to the telco central offices (with generators). Try to keep that. Verizon has turned off copper lines in some neighborhoods, and will no longer repair them. During this outage, my POTS over Verizon fiber was the only line that did not fail.
Remember that text messages (SMS) will often get thru when nothing else does. Find out your SMS email address, and send it to your family. Anyone in the world can text your phone. Tell your family! Send them an email with that address in the text, and use a subject line that they can search for fast (like your entire name) when they can't raise you. My phone's email address is email@example.com (the zeroes are my phone number - I may be a know-it-all but I ain't stupid.)
Assume you are on your own. Don't call 911, or the sheriff, or the fire department. They are busy! They're cops, not concierges. We can stay ignorant for a few minutes, it won't kill us.
Keep the fridge closed. No exceptions.
Did I mention the Jiffypop Popcorn? Gotta buy more. Maybe some purple licorice, too, for the next one.
Hans Laetz, Malibu
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