Marin County officials evaluate how outages affect the elderly

With Pacific Gas & Electric planned power outages becoming the new normal, everyone is learning something. 

For five days, seniors living in an apartment complex in Fairfax were without power. Some stranded on upper-level floors, because the elevator didn't work. 

"We did actually send some teams out to certain facilities that we knew were a higher concentration of more vulnerable adults," Marin County Public Information Officer Laine Hendricks.

The Marin County Health Services Department sent supplies to this group of seniors.

Food, lanterns, and flashlights were sent to help them get by. Senior citizens living at The Villas at Hamilton complex in Novato had a similar fate. They were trapped in their homes during the outage.

County leaders say this is the perfect time for families to make plans for older adults.  

"This is an important opportunity for these older adults as well maybe their children to really understand what does independent living really mean," Hendricks said.  

She said nearly one and three adults in Marin are over the age of 65. 40% of older adults in Marin live alone. In both cases, the seniors were living in what is basically an apartment complex for older adults, which should not be confused with assisted-living facilities.  

"Skilled nursing facilities and assisted-living facilities have a very strict criteria that they have to meet, according to the state. It might just be a carbon monoxide detector. Those basic landlord type of requirements," says Hendricks.  

County officials said as fire season continues, there's a good chance there may be more planned outages. They recommend now is a good time for everyone to be better prepared.  

"These recent outages have been, I think an awakening for some as it relates to what thorough disaster preparedness means. We've been trained. 72 hours has been the norm. But this new norm might be 96 hours or even a week," said Hendricks.  

Alameda County Public Health said it teamed with the county fire department to do welfare checks on their highest priority seniors and people they call medically fragile.