PG&E and the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, or CFILC, collaborated to create the Disability Disaster Access and Resources program to support vulnerable customers in the event of a Public Safety Power Shutoff, or PSPS.
According to a PG&E press release, the joint program will assist individuals with disabilities, older adults and those with access and functional needs, or AFN, in preparation for a PSPS, during which power is turned off amid increased wildfire threats. The program allows local centers to offer qualifying candidates who depend on electrical medical machines access to backup portable batteries through a grant, a lease or the FreedomTech low-interest financial loan program, which provides loans for assistive technology to Californians.
Additionally, the press release states that means of transportation, food, shelter, education, emergency planning and information about PG&E services will also be included in the disaster readiness program.
“It’s designed more for people who live alone who have medical issues. It will provide battery backup for certain appliances,” said Chuck Cole, a spokesperson for Berkeley’s Chaparral House, a skilled nursing facility, in a voicemail. “If someone is on oxygen and they have a battery backup, then that will give them 12 hours or even 24 hours. Sometimes, the emergency power outages have been longer than that; this is the only thing that may be an issue.”
The press release states that independent living centers affiliated with the CFILC will oversee the implementation of this program. The CFILC functions as a membership association for the majority of the local independent living centers across PG&E’s service area, according to the press release. The press release adds that the CFILC is a grassroots organization managed by and for people with disabilities, offering an array of services to the disabled community and people of various ages. PG&E recognized that its collaboration with CFILC paves the path to reach the disabled community during PSPS events.
According to the press release, applications for portable backup batteries will be accessible online and at independent living centers statewide. Customers who utilize life-sustaining medical devices will assume the highest priority. The press release also states that overseeing this application process is the CFILC’s Disaster Resource Advisory Committee, which is responsible for determining the allocation of resources.
“At PG&E, we are extremely thankful for CFILC and all they do to provide assistance to Californians,” said Laurie Giammona, PG&E chief customer officer and senior vice president, in the press release. “They are uniquely positioned to support the AFN community by providing services and advocacy through their existing programs and campaigns.”