Author Archives: pattilondre

TAKE-AWAYS FROM OUR 10-HOUR POWER OUTAGE

By Patti Londre, PV Emergency Preparedness Committee

At 3:04 AM on Wednesday, September 28, 2017 in the sleepy enclave of Phase 1 Playa Vista, there was a sudden power surge, then a muted BOOM, and the smell of electrical fire in the vicinity of Para Way and Discovery Creek. An underground transformer had blown, cutting electricity to a number of subassociations, as well as the street lamps. The eerie, dark calmness had a hitch – dark smoke was wafting up from parkway grates on Discovery Creek. Three PVPAL bike patrols on their routes around the community were searching for the cause; we flagged them down with a flashlight, and they alerted LAFD. A handful of firefighters pulled off the grate, assessed the situation – smoking but not “on fire,” whew — and contacted LADWP emergency response, then babysat the spot until 4:30 AM when LADWP took over. Those guys consulted their laptop to ascertain which grid had fried and set to work for close to 8 hours replacing equipment and getting us juice again (and came back the next day to do more work). Around 1:30 PM, power was restored, and the news rolled around on Facebook as properties reported in. The 10 hour outage was our community’s longest — so far.

Frankly, this was a good dry run for us. Think about it… this little transformer is a baby compared to the momma that feeds it. If our entire community, or bigger, the whole Westside went black for a day or two or seven… how prepared are you to hunker down and endure a bigger such inconvenience? No Yummy, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Coffee Bean, Home Depot, CVS, BofA…

Here are some ways to visualize how to take what we experienced yesterday and play it out on a bigger scale, once you’ve established your family and neighbors are safe…

COFFEE – you CAN brew coffee if you have 1) a drip coffeemaker, 2) gas stove, 3) a match or BIC lighter. Measure coffee grounds into the machine as usual, light your gas range with the match, boil some water and pour over the grounds. Drip, drip, drip… ahhh, ready to take on the bigger challenge. A French press is just as easy.

If your home is all-electric, you cannot cook on the stovetop obviously. But you CAN boil water in a pan on the barbecue. The BBQ ignition switch doesn’t need electricity.

BREAKFAST – I’d suggest cereal. QUICKLY open your fridge and grab the milk. QUICKLY put it back. Otherwise, keep that door shut, shut, shut. Instant oatmeal is easier; yes, you still have to boil water.  And speaking of MILK, our fridge always has a handful of Horizon Low-Fat Milk in shelf-stable containers. I’m not adverse to drinking warm milk if power is out a few days.

COOKING – either cook on the gas stovetop, or your barbecue. Scrambled eggs, a can of soup, leftover pasta or chicken masala, in the Olden Days before microwave ovens, we used pots and pans. Even reheating slices of pizza (on a frying pan, heat and flip once, heat other side). Try it sometime when there is no power outage to get the hang of it. Campers out there know how easy this is.

THE GARAGE —  Can you get your car out?  If you have a SFH, pull the dangling rope to disengage the garage door, and manually hoist the door up (it will probably take two people). Subassociations with security gates, this is VERY IMPORTANT to get your HOA board to communicate with residents how to disengage the security gate. The ones that open like a door requires a key and at least one or two strong people to PULL. But the roll-ups take many strong people, so ask your board to figure out the system and empower residents to be able to open the gates without the involvement of a board member with “the key”, many of whom may be traveling.

LIGHTS – the building’s emergency backup battery will run out in about 4 hours and then the garages and stairwells go dark. Obviously don’t try to use the elevator even when the emergency lights are on, the power could deplete at any time. But carry a bright flashlight during an outage. My absolute favorite lamp is the Luci solar lamp. Put it in the sun during the day and it has many hours of power. Daytime is easy. After sundown, you will need light.

COMMUNICATION – smart phones are the lifeline, until the batteries die. Get a good backup battery, and keep it completely charged up when not in use. It obviously will only get you through one more full day of phone power. You can also power your phone in your car, but that could possibly drain your car battery so run the car a bit – outside the garage.

FOOD SPOILAGE – usually the number-one question. This 10-hour outage didn’t result in food loss for us. In fact, our ice didn’t even start to melt in the freezer. You have a choice, leave the doors SHUT and eat dry foods from the pantry, or QUICKLY open the door to get the refrigerator food – what to eat first: leftovers, thawed meat, milk, fresh juices. Let’s say this outage went into dinner time. My plan was to eat the lettuce, leftover pasta, milk for dinner. And I was going to QUICKLY take the ice and ice packs out of the freezer, put into our small ice chest with the eggs, cheese and rest of the milk to keep cold overnight for breakfast. See? It just takes some visualization. Let’s say this outage went through the second night to Day 2…. freezer eating time. The ice cream MAY be slush, and popsicles melted but since I only opened the freezer once (to remove ice for my ice chest); everything else will probably be cold, but not rock-frozen. I’d invite neighbors to barbecue together –  our raw meats, get those eaten. Plus use the stovetop to pan-heat the now-thawed (but still cold) won-tons and burritos. If it feels room temperature to the touch, it goes in the trash. Once you have used the food as best you can, leave the fridge and freezer DOORS OPEN… otherwise, stink happens. You’ll want to wipe those out anyway, stuff has surely dripped and melted. Condiments in the fridge door – ketchup, salad dressing, mayo, I’d also throw away once truly warm. But I would eat the pickles. Then start eating up the pantry food – canned vegs, dried pastas, grains. If you have a gas stove or BBQ, you can cook.

CLEANUP – since the dishwasher doesn’t work without electricity, you will be hand-washing pots and pans. Don’t worry, you will have tons of time since anything electrical won’t have your attention. Depending on your building, you may or may not have hot water (the boilers and water heaters may require electricity to ignite and pump the water to your unit, for example)  Wash dishes in soapy water and a few splashes of bleach added to kill germs. Stack to drip dry.

BOREDOM – as the sun goes down, it is going to get boring (I am pretending that we are all in Playa Vista and cannot get out of our community). Bring your lamps, a bottle of wine, some non-perishible snacks, and a board game to the park and play games with neighbors. (Cubans play dominoes outside nightly under the glow of really crappy lightbulbs; it’s pretty cool. Let’s do that!)

CHIRPING SMOKE DETECTORS – did yours chirp during the outage? Its 9-volt back-up battery is probably dead. Replace all those batteries now and you won’t have chirping next time, but make sure and replace ALL again in a year – mark that on your calendar.

Obviously, there are plenty more things to do to be emergency prepared, but hopefully this 10-hour event was useful to your household. By the posts on Facebook, it was obviously frustrating to many people, and scary to others. That shouldn’t happen. Prepare!

Earthquake Aftermaths ~ Food For Thought, Quite Literally

My husband and I lived in Studio City when the 1994 earthquake hit. Pre-dawn, first a thunderous WHACK, and then heart-stopping shake, shake, shake, shake. I had a broken arm, so just threw the covers over my head. Husband jumped up. We both were yelling orders at each other, of course.

You could hear glass smashing, HEAVY roaring brick and mortar noises, and then… silence. Strangely dreamy darkness. A few seconds later, an aftershock. And another. Pray, pray, pray. Breathe.

There was no power, so the cloudless sky was filled with stars. Within minutes, people came out of homes, quietly comparing notes. A car in the distance turned on headlights, and an ET scene emerged as “earthquake dust” filled the air and people walked back and forth in the light.

Once the sun came up, we started what you have to do… clean up.

First note… the earth moves differently for practically every structure, and one block to the next. We had a wavelike action, so while our house sustained structural damage like a downed chimney and cracked foundation, much of our “stuff” survived. The glass smashing was glassware flying across the dining room… yet the vase of fresh flowers 3 feet away didn’t budge.

My friend, Marlene’s condo rolled differently. At the end of the shaking, she had two distinctly different outcomes than ours. First, she had never bolted her home office furniture to the wall, which moved so violently that it all jammed up against the door. There was no getting in there.

Second heartbreaker… her entire kitchen from top to bottom shook with such force that the end result was totally empty cabinets and every surface a sloggy, glass shard and liquid heap of broken bottles on top of broken dishes on top of the entire contents of her refrigerator. Which, if left even just one day would start to stink. Eggs. Meat. Ice cream. Olive oil. Vinegar. A-1 sauce. Pancake syrup. The under-sink stuff – bleach, liquid soap. All slopped over her counters, floors and mixed together with her pots and pans, broken dishes and “earthquake safe” foods of cans, water bottles, dry cereals.

So, now that I have totally freaked you out, what can you possibly do today to save yourself the misery of Marlene (oh, by the way, neighbors helped break a window to her office and shoved furniture enough to get the door open. And then they left to clean up their own messes).

Besides the earthquake kit backpack, visualize where in your home there are vulnerabilities. Overwhelmed? Today… start with the kitchen:

  1. Kitchen cabinet latches that don’t annoy but will secure the cabinets in the event of a shaker. We installed these throughout our kitchen. 
  2. Storage of earthquake-ready dry foods and water in places not just kitchen. Under beds, in the garage, on the floor at the back of closets are accessible dry spots.
  3. Cleanup gear. Thick rubber boots, heavy duty gloves, brooms, dust pans, buckets, mops and TONS of plastic bags. Get that broom closet Earthquake Ready.

That’s enough for today. Order the latches online. Go to Home Depot for the broom closet stuff.

El Nino Preparedness for Playa Vista Residents

Notes from the Westchester El Nino Preparedness Town Hall — “This weather phenomenon will run the gamut from inconvenient to crisis.”

~~~

Attended by  20+ city department reps, Mike Bonin, Mayor Eric Garcetti. This was a city-wide and Westside focused collection of info on how city services are preparing for the predicted very stormy winter. Given the volume of info, much of which is on www.lacounty.gov/elnino, the following distills what I feel is salient to Playa Vista residents (plus some of my editorial).

First and foremost: just because we reside in Playa Vista does NOT mean that much doesn’t apply. We leave our cocoon many times weekly, so what may not apply to your household structure, still applies to you as a resident of Los Angeles. Here are action items:

  1. PREPAREDNESS starts with residents, as in YOU. Stock up NOW, not when the storms hit.
  2. WARNINGS — Go to ElNinoLA.org and sign up for “notify LA alerts” to your cell phone. Flash floods aren’t just a hillside issue, as the LAFD chief put it: they can happen A N Y W H E R E. Just one clogged storm drain (i.e. a traveling trash barrel) miles from here and YOUR access to getting somewhere is severely affected and dangerous.
  3. PLAN YOUR DAYS — Become a WEATHER NERD. Check weather reports throughout the day to be wiser about moving around the city. We may scoff at “storm watch” TV coverage, but the dangers are very real. Best resource is the National Weather Service: http://www.weather.gov/
  4. COMMUNICATION – text, don’t call, to communicate with family and friends. Texting will be more reliable in an emergency, as it takes less bandwidth.
  5. ELECTRICITY — The power will go out. Obviously no lights, fridge or WiFi. Elevators won’t work. Yummy will be closed. Visualize Playa Vista in darkness – test flashlights today, buy more batteries, get a battery operated radio, and obviously food.
  6. DRAINS – remove outdoor rugs off the patio drains for the winter.
  7. SANDBAGS — Storms are predicted to arrive like an escalator – one after another after another. In Playa Vista, our bazillion patio and walkway drains, downspout gutters and storm drains in the curbs ALL compete for the same underground route to the Ballona Creek — they may very likely back up – as in, standing and rising water. THIS IS WHERE SAND BAGS COME IN. If your home has an exterior door(s) on a patio or walkway, if you had six inches or more of water on that patio – does the water have an escape route besides the drain??  If not, it’s a good idea to sandbag that door or you may experience water coming in. (PS – rain very often flies sideways in bad storms, even if your patio is covered, just plan for it.)
  8. STAY AWAY from the Ballona Creek, including the bike path. The vast majority of deaths in big storms are due to drowning.
  9. STAY AWAY from hillsides, such as the LMU and Ballona Creek hiking trails. No telling how well the homes and campus above have prepared to mitigate slides.
  10. RESCUE NO NO– do not attempt to rescue anyone or any animal from the Ballona Creek, storm channels, etc. Call 911.
  11. DRIVING – “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” Don’t let other drivers bully you into making dumb driving choices. Don’t drive thru floods, no matter if that giant SUV in front of you made it. Yours may be the car that stalls out. It only takes 1.5 to 2 feet of moving water to sweep a car. Postpone errands, cancel that doctor’s appointment, stay home. If you are stuck in your car, stay in your car.
  12. KEEP YOUR GAS TANK AS FULL AS POSSIBLE – get out of the habit of only filling up when you are below a quarter full. If you’re down even a few gallons and a gas station is convenient, fill up again.
  13. WALKING – do not walk through moving water. NOOOO. 6 inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet.
  14. SHELTER IN PLACE – plan to stay home a LOT. Don’t drive during or following a downpour. Everything will be a mess, it isn’t worth it. Trees down, traffic lights out, cars crashed. Negotiate with your employer soon to work from home. Just as importantly, if you cannot get home from your workplace, can you stay there overnight? Stock your desk – change of clothing, toothbrush, medications, flashlight.
  15. MAKE FRIENDS WITH NEIGHBORS – that goes without saying, right? But how many neighbors do you really know? We may need each other a whole lot more before next summer. Someone may have a tool you need. Or the muscle to help move something heavy.

###

Preparedness Items @ Home, Car, Work

Red CrossExperts recommend we take responsibility for our households to be able to cope at least 3 days without city services — no electricity, water, sewage or emergency medical help. There are things you can do to better deal during those 72 hours; below is a list for you to prepare your household (you probably have MOST of these already, so just organize them!).

At Home

  • Nonperishable packaged and canned food (special foods and supplies for babies, disabled or elderly)
  • Manual can opener
  • 1 case of bottled water per person AND pet (if you use in your daily lives, every time you use a case, buy another case)
  • First aid kit and handbook
  • Clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Portable radio
  • Flashlights with spare batteries
  • Essential medications
  • List of family physicians and the style and serial number of medical devices, such as pacemakers
  • Extra eyeglasses
  • Extra set of house and car keys
  • Toilet paper, toiletries and feminine hygiene items
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pet food, water and leash or carrier
  • Cash in small denominations
  • Water purification kit or unscented liquid bleach (eight drops per gallon when water is first stored)
  • Disposable eating utensils, paper cups and plates
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Paper towels
  • Knife or razor blades
  • Candles and light sticks
  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Work gloves and broom
  • Hammer and nails
  • Rope and wire
  • Ax, crowbar and shovel
  • Cheesecloth (to strain water)
  • Large and small plastic bags
  • Tarps, 8 feet by 10 feet (you may have to sleep outdoors)
  • Paper, pens and stamps
  • Entertainment: reading material and games

In The Car – you may be away from home, stuck in one place for several days

  • Nylon tote or day pack
  • Bottled water
  • Nonperishable food
  • Manual can opener
  • Transistor radio, flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Gloves
  • Blanket or sleeping bags
  • Sealable plastic bags
  • Moist towelettes
  • Tool kit
  • Matches
  • Walking shoes and extra socks
  • Change of clothes
  • Cash in small denominations
  • Compass

At Work – you may be faced with staying at your workplace OR walking home

  • Dry food, such as candy bars, dried fruit, jerky and crackers
  • Water or juice
  • Tennis shoes or walking shoes
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and portable radio with extra batteries
  • Matches
  • Small and large plastic bags
  • Toiletries
  • Entertainment pack of family photos, notebooks, reading material and games

Sources: USGS, City of Los Angeles Fire Department, California Office of Emergency Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross.

How We’re Organizing

firetruck.jpgHello Playa Vista Neighbors — We live in one of LA’s most enviable communities. That makes it rather easy to ignore reality… that a sudden crisis can seriously impact our wonderful lives and beautiful homes.

Disasters strike at inconvenient times. Playa Vista is not immune to earthquakes, floods, fires, even tsunamis and civil unrest — so, let’s ready our households and neighborhood.

The Playa Vista Emergency Preparedness Committee was launched in Fall, 2014.  We’re lining up resident liaisons for each subassociation to be able to reach residents by this protocol:

Committee     –>     Liaisons     –>     HOA Boards     –>    Residents

We’ve set our sights on bringing Education, Events and Training from some of LA’s best resources, such as CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training.

Interested in being CERT trained?  Email: CertPlayaVista@gmail.com. We’ll be in touch once a date is determined.

NOTE:  The Playa Vista Emergency Preparedness Committee is organized and operated by resident volunteers. It is not managed by PVPAL.