The effects of these wildfires and power shut offs are that people are unable to communicate with first responders, the utilities, and their families and communities during an emergency. They are ill-equipped when a disaster strikes. Southern California Edison and the California Fire Foundation are working to assist communities most at risk, including those in high fire zones, in low-income communities, and communities where English is not the primary language. In 2020 they offered grants to community organizations that would aid in emergency preparedness in these high risk, difficult to access communities.
Two organizations, Unite to Light and One Step A La Vez, teamed up to offer assistance and information in the eastern Ventura County community of Fillmore. Unite to Light (UTL) is a nonprofit with a mission to bring light and power to people living without electricity. One Step A La Vez (One Step) is a nonprofit with a mission to provide a safe place for youth. One Step’s community presence, reputation, and bi-monthly food share program, gave them a unique position to connect with the community members most at risk during a fire or power shutoff.
"One Step A La Vez participation with this program was a great service to our community and youth. The opportunity to have access to information about wildfire safety and to be incentivized to sign up for Public Safety Power Shutoff notifications was very well received by the people we serve. These notifications can save lives and with the Solar Chargers, people will always have power for their phones to receive the notifications and updates in an emergency. Muchas Gracias!!" said One Step Interim Executive Director, Joe Ramirez.
The program signed up 200 community members for PSPS notifications, and distributed 200 Solar Chargers and 400 informational flyers over two months at the food pantries hosted by One Step in November and December 2020. The informational flyers were designed by a youth member of One Step and contained information in Spanish and English. Both UTL and One Step also created multiple social media posts about the distribution and wildfire information so that those who could not attend the food pantry would still have access to information on how to sign up for PSPS notifications.
One member of the One Step community commented: “It is awesome that I am going to get notified by Edison ahead of time so I can prepare for an outage and the charger will come in handy to use as a flashlight and charge the phone in case of an emergency.”
One Step has reported that recipients have been using the Solar Charges for their phones on a regular basis, since they are durable, lightweight and can be carried with them. Community members have also expressed gratitude that the Solar Charger comes with a flashlight to assist with power outages, as well as keeping their phones charged and available for calls and alerts.
"In Southern California we all live with the risk of wildfires. We wanted to offer our Solar Charger to our neighbors in high fire danger zones so that they can have power during potentially life threatening events. Partnering with One Step A La Vez, SCE and Cal Fire Foundation meant that we could help those who could not otherwise afford such a resource,” commented Megan Birney, President & CEO of Unite to Light.