Mill Valley business owners hold first-ever meeting to prepare for PG&E outages

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- PG&E's planned power outages are meant to save lives in high fire risk areas, but many business owners fear it will hurt their bottom line.

How do they stay open with no electricity, no Internet, no refrigeration?

That concern is so great that several Mill Valley business owners gathered for a workshop Monday morning to learn what they can do to prepare for these shutdowns.

"We can't tell our clients, 'Sorry, we don't have power. Call next week,'" Dave Mcentee, who runs a video analysis business in Mill Valley, said. "That's not an option."

RELATED: PG&E may cut electricity during high wind and fire danger, here's how to be ready for a blackout

The meeting was the first of its kind in Mill Valley, but Dave Jeffries, a public safety consultant who led the event, has been hosting the meetings across Marin County, including Novato, Sausalito and next week in Tiburon.

"What we want is for them to have a plan they can put into place just like the plans the local public safety is creating so that their plan the day this occurs is not just called 911," Jeffries explained.

As a way to reduce the first risk, PG&E has been preemptively shutting off power to fire-prone areas across the state. Earlier this month, the utility company shut off power to five counties in Northern California.

Parts of Mill Valley are considered by PG&E to be in "Tier 3" -- meaning areas with the most extreme fire risk. While power has not been shut off there yet, Mill Valley Fire Chief Tom Welch believes it's almost inevitable it will happen.

"Typically, the power outages come with the high fire dangers. We get those days about 8 to 10 to 12 days out of the year during red flag warnings," Chief Welch said, "And so I do anticipate that they will be shutting the power off."

Without much guidance from PG&E, business owners say they have no choice but to come up with new ways to do their business.

For Elly Dreslek, the Assistant Manager at the Margaret O'Leary clothing boutique in Mill Valley, that means using a paper credit card reader.

"Ring up sales the old fashioned way. You know? The imprint instead of a computer, because it's all down," Dreslek said.

For Mcentee, whose business requires a large amount of Internet band-with, he's going to look into satellite communications.

RELATED: PG&E warns of emergency shut-downs that could impact San Francisco, San Jose

"We will look into whether there is an affordable satellite provider out there and whether our building will allow us to put a dish up on the roof ." he said.

According to Jeffries, a generator is, of course, another option for businesses. And for restaurant owners, he suggests reconsidering how much frozen food they use.

Despite these changes, there are still many unknowns and many unanswered questions.

"For PG&E, we'd like to better understand the duration, which I think will come with time, as we do these," Mill Valley Fire Chief Welch said. "The locations, if there are specific niche areas that are going to be shut off, we'd like to understand that better."
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