Businesses Told How to Prepare for Next Disaster

Southern California Edison spokeswoman Rhondi Guthrie speaks at Direct Relief in Goleta on Sept. 25.

Three women presented their thoughts on what to do in preparation for the next inevitable Santa Barbara regional disaster at a Sept. 26 presentation in the Hatch Room of Direct Relief headquarters in Goleta. 

The presentation was aimed at small businesses and nonprofits in the wake of recent disasters, including some the worst wildfires in the state’s history and the Montecito mudslide that killed 25 people, damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and closed Highway 101 for almost two weeks. 

As was seen most recently on Sept. 24, Southern California Edison announced a power shut off because of hot, dry and windy conditions on the Gaviota Coast. This was to avoid the possibility of sparking electric lines that have been known to ignite massive brush fires. A similar shut off occurred Sept. 7. 

Edison spokeswoman Rhondi Guthrie told a small crowd at Direct Relief that more possible “public safety power-shutoff” notifications could start four to seven days in advance as crews assess weather, brush dryness and other environmental conditions. 

Within two days to 12 hours of a power shut off, property owners will be given notice of when they probably will lose electricity. The problem is, she said, not everyone on the property or in a commercial building may always be informed. 

Gutherie said Edison is working on getting more “real-time” information to people affected by the power shut offs. Edison is installing more weather stations, updating equipment and taking other steps to prevent transmission lines from sparking fires. 

Niki Parr, Women’s Economic Ventures resilience specialist, told the crowd businesses should develop a “continuity plan” in advance of another disaster. She said they should take into account employee communications, access to their business, power and water dependence, data back up and even how much cash they might need to operate in disaster conditions. 

Farmers Insurance agency managing partner Kelly Weiser discussed the need for businesses to better understand their policies before another disaster occurs. 

Women’s Economic Ventures organized the Wednesday discussion. This week, the nonprofit group received $150,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help low-income entrepreneurs gain access to capital to establish and expand their small enterprises through the Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs. 

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