Ken Quiner describes electrical blackouts as a “triage moment” for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
Tribal elders, local doctors, people who are bedridden or in hospice care and other vulnerable members of the community all need a constant and consistent supply of electricity, he said. That puts a lot of strain on the tribe’s Emergency Operations Center to find ways to patch the power grid as fast as possible, especially during heavy snowstorms like the ones that rolled through last winter and knocked out the power to half of the community.
In those situations, the tribe uses 80-watt generators to open so-called power shelters at local community centers complete with cots, blankets and charging stations for residents who need to stay overnight. If a tribal member can’t leave their home, a power generator will be attached to that individual’s home. But Quiner, the tribe’s emergency manager, knows that doing both can be difficult with only eight generators for a community of more than 300 households, many of which are served by outdated electrical equipment.