The Food In Your Fridge Is Safe(ish) From Edison Power Outages

Edison workers calibrate a weather monitor system as part of an upgrade to make the grid more resistant to wildfires. (Kyle Grillot/LAist)

You're working from home alongside a house full of kids. You've got a refrigerator-freezer stockpiled for the protracted hunkering down needed to slow the spread of Coronavirus. The last thing you need is a power outage.

Especially one that's not absolutely necessary.

That's what Wendy Bell was facing this Friday night in her Altadena neighborhood. Starting at 8 p.m., the power to the house she shares with her husband was scheduled to be out until 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

She reached out to us asking if Edison might reconsider the planned outage while so many people are already stressed as they adapt to spending so much time at home.

"Many of us are worried about losing power for the day or, for people on my outage, 10hrs overnight," she said in her email. "There are heating and food spoilage concerns. How are people over 60 and in self isolation supposed to even get ice?"

She's been making extra ice, but she's afraid that any more than four hours without power could spoil the meat, dairy and other fresh food she and her husband bought to prepare for what they expect to be a few weeks of self-quarantine.

She scanned the Edison outage map on Wednesday and found more than 1,000 households in San Gabriel, Monrovia, El Monte, Alhambra, West Covina and other areas had planned outages for things like replacing utility poles and upgrading equipment.

WHAT ARE EDISON'S OUTAGE PLANS?

We called Edison to find out what was going on, and discovered that the utility company had decided to shift its policy. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, it's decided to temporarily postpone what it calls "non-critical" planned power outages.

It's now in the process of notifying customers. And, happily for Bell and her neighbors, spokesman Reggie Kumar confirmed that their power will not be shut down.

ARE ALL OUTAGES POSTPONED?

The shutoffs haven't completely ended, however. The company has said it will go through with two types of outages — those related to emergency and public safety, like repairing power lines when a car hits a utility pole, and those related to the upgrade of the power grid.

Edison equipment has caused several recent wildfires, costing billions of dollars in damage. So it is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to "harden the power grid," to ensure its equipment does not spark fires that can cost the company even more money.

So the company will continue to shut off power area by area to upgrade power lines and replace power poles.

HOW DO I KNOW MY POWER WILL BE SHUT OFF?

The company notifies customers by mail giving the date, time and duration of the outages as well as a reason for the outage. And you can search Edison's maintenance outages webpage to see whether a planned outage is happening or has been canceled.

WHAT ELSE ARE THE UTILITIES DOING DIFFERENTLY DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS?

Edison and other big utilities throughout Southern California have said they would not cut off power to people who were unable to keep their bills paid due to illness or loss of a paycheck during the months of COVID-19 prevention measures.

Of course, it's not much comfort to families that have to cope with power outages, but Edison International said it planned to donate $1 million to community based organizations, starting with $150,000 to the California Community Foundation's COVID-19 LA County Response Fund.