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Emergency Tips from Edison, Post Office, Insurance Commish

Agencies Offer Ways to Make the Hardships of Evacuation Less Painful


Friday, May 8, 2009

Aid for Jesusita Fire victims and evacuees comes in many forms. Some of the most helpful may be simple advice. Below are several organizations' tips on how the trauma of evacuation can be endured a little less painfully.

Southern California Edison

Southern California Edison (SCE) customers whose residences were destroyed or made uninhabitable by the Jesusita Fire will not have to pay for electricity used since their last bill, the company announced today. In addition, SCE customers who were indirectly affected by the fire may make payment arrangements for their last bill. Linda Yamauchi, manager of SCE's Consumer Affairs Department, said the company wants to help customers displaced by the fire in any way that it can. She encourages customers who qualify for bill forgiveness to call (800) 250-7339 and those who require payment arrangements to call (800) 950-2356.

While SCE crews continue to work round-the-clock to make repairs and restore service to areas affected by the wildfires as quickly as possible, SCE reminds its customers of the following important safety tips during widespread power outages:

- Check on the medical needs of family and neighbors.

- Use flashlights. Do not use candles, which can start fires.

- Keep battery-powered radios with fresh batteries so they remain operable.

- Maintain at least three-quarters of a tank of gasoline in your vehicle(s). Gas station pumps do not operate during power outages.

- Have alternate, back-up arrangements in place to keep perishable food chilled and fresh in the event of prolonged outages. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible during an outage -a well-filled, unopened freezer will keep food frozen for hours without electricity.

- Never connect a portable generator directly to a power line. State law requires that customers inform SCE when a generator is being used at a home or business by calling (800) 655-4555.

- Never touch a power line suspended in the air or lying on the ground.

U.S. Postal Service

Although all Santa Barbara area post offices are located within the Jesusita Fire evacuation warning zone, the postal service is making every effort to maintain normal service. Safeguarded against the ash and smoke with face masks, letter carriers continue to deliver mail where access is safe. Residents who have been evacuated from their homes and business can collect their mail at their post office during business hours. They will need to present photo identification.

The post office you should visit is based on your zip code.

- 93101: Santa Barbara Main Post Office, 836 Anacapa Street

- 93105: San Roque Station, 3355 State Street

- 93105, 93108, and 93109: East Beach Station, 107 Nopalitas Way

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner reminded evacuees today that they might be eligible for compensation for additional expenses they may have incurred as a result of mandatory evacuations. He also encouraged affected residents to update their insurance policies, if necessary.

Poizner said that most insurance policies cover additional living expenses (ALEs), which would allow evacuees to maintain a normal standard of living despite costs incurred as a result of fire damage and mandatory evacuation. ALEs often cover housing costs, costs associated with furniture rentals and storage space rentals, telephone installation and additional transportation costs, among other costs.

Poizner said in a press release that the Department of Insurance is poised to answer any questions evacuees may have about their insurance policies. "Coming up with extra money for hotel stays, extra food and other additional living costs are the last thing fire evacuees should have to worry about," he said. "Check your policy, and if you have any insurance questions, call the Department of Insurance at 1 (800) 927-HELP."

He also encouraged evacuees to visit insurance.ca.gov to see a free home inventory guide.

Allison M. Jones and Rachel Reeves are Independent interns.

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