Southern California Edison recently sent letters to many customers in Ventura County notifying them of the possibility power may be shut off in high-risk areas during times of dangerous fire conditions. Power companies also sometimes notify customers before shutting down power for maintenance purposes.
If you expect your power will be off for more than a couple of hours, and you are concerned about food spoilage or damage to electronics, there are a few things you should know.

Betty Huff, Manager of the Community Services Section of the Ventura County Environmental Health Division, notes food that defrosts but stays at or below 41 degrees is likely to be safe. For comparison, regulations allow restaurants to keep food for up to two hours out of a refrigerator during “diligent preparation,” and then restaurant staff can return it to a refrigerator and serve it.

With sufficient notice of a power outage, you can do a few things to help your food stay cold. Move foods from your refrigerator to your freezer, and keep both the refrigerator and freezer closed during the outage.

A full freezer holds cold better than an empty one, so adding cups of water in advance of an outage can be a useful strategy. Another tip is to separate meat and poultry items from other foods, so if they begin to thaw, their juices will not drip onto other foods.

Electronics are another area of concern following a power outage. A sudden loss of power may result in data loss, and repeated instances may cause bad sectors in a hard drive. The real danger, however, comes the moment electricity is restored. Overvoltage sometimes surges through power lines, posing a risk to electronic devices.

Anthony Delgaudio, owner of All PC Solutions in Moorpark, says that some people worry about the risk to computer motherboards, but the real threat is to power supplies at the moment power is restored. This risk is not large compared to the risk of a surge from a lightning storm, and neither risk is as large as the threat to computer power supplies from overheating. Reduce this danger by cleaning fans and avoiding dust accumulation.

Problems with power outages and surges are easily solved. An uninterruptable power supply can save data during an outage, a surge protector protects a device, and a whole-house surge suppressor (costing about $100, with installation by an electrician costing another $100) can prevent damage from a surge. Each time a surge protector does its job, resulting damage can reduce effectiveness for the next surge.

Reduce waste from power outages by taking basic precautions.