In the picture it shared on social media that went viral, the Pleasanton Police Department in Northern California took a map of the state, scribbled a bright red zigzag across its entirety and added 16 instructional arrows.
“PG&E says prepare for power shutdown in select areas of California marked in red,” the map said, referring to the Pacific Gas and Electric utility.
In truth, the outage is impacting as many as a million households in more than 30 counties, but not the entire state.
The Pleasanton Police Department’s post, which had drawn 42,000 shares and nearly 7,000 comments by Thursday morning, was meant as a tongue-in-cheek way to warn local residents about the widespread outage planned by PG&E this week. The blackout — the largest in the state’s history — is a preventive measure as California’s dry climate and sharp winds begin to spell the onset of wildfire season.
The outage comes as PG&E faces massive liabilities for starting the fire that killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise last year. The measure has upset customers, who have been forced to close schools and make accommodations for the things in their lives that need electricity, such as refrigerated medicine.
But in Pleasanton, the police department chose to add some levity to a serious matter.
The text that accompanied their outage “map” was useful, yet darkly humorous.
“If you come home and everything is dark and nothing works, then yes, you are experiencing a power shutdown,” read one tip. “Remain calm. Use your cell phone light to search frantically for the one flashlight you think you have in the house. It will be dead of course. Search for batteries. You will need four but only find three.”
Read another: “Check on your neighbors. Even the one whose dog barks all night. And the other one who always parks in front of your house."
And there were several digs at teenagers:
“Charge up those portable phone chargers tonight,” the post said. “However, keep in mind, should your teen’s phone run out of battery it could be a good thing. Watching them go through Tik-Tok or Instagram withdrawals could be good entertainment. Heck, it could even put them dangerously close to having to read a book by flashlight or doing something creative.”
On Wednesday, authorities reported that a bullet was fired at one of the company’s vehicles and said a threatening letter was found at a PG&E facility. The energy company called on the public to let its employees do their jobs over the next several days.
“We realize and understand the impact and the hardship as the result of this decision that we’ve made,” Sumeet Singh, vice president of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program, said at a news conference Wednesday.
PG&E employees and contractors “have families that live in your communities,” Singh reminded the affected customers. “They have friends that are members of your communities.”
“So let’s just ensure their safety as well, as they are doing this work in the interest of your safety,” Singh said.
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