BERKELEY– A tweet sent by the city of Berkeley telling people who may be affected by the power outages with medical needs to “please use your own resources” set off a critical online backlash.
The tweet, sent out Wednesday afternoon, advised Berkeley residents who may need medical assistance to “please use your own resources to relocate to an unaffected area.”
Update, 3:30pm Wed: If you are power-dependent for medical reasons and in a potential shutoff area, please use your own resources to relocate to an unaffected area. If unable to relocate and power loss will cause immediate life threat, call 911 for transport to an Emergency Room. pic.twitter.com/JtR2EIY06g
— City of Berkeley (@CityofBerkeley) October 9, 2019
But the community responded with tweets that ripped the city for its lack of preparedness for the power outage that affected parts of Berkeley, which began Wednesday night and went through Thursday.
“I hate that you assume all disabled folks in need of power have the resources to deal with something like this. You’re abandoning them. Stop it. Do the right thing,” said one Twitter user.
” ‘Use your own resources’ This tweet is insane,” said another.
“This is very disappointing. @CityofBerkeley is basically telling people with disabilities that they can either die or become bankrupt, no one will attempt to help those with medical needs for electricity. We are better than this,” wrote one woman.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin acknowledged in an interview Thursday afternoon that the tweet could have been written a little better.
“Clearly the way it was written could have been done much more clearly and with greater sensitivity,” Arreguin said.
“The messaging didn’t accurately reflect the efforts the city has undertaken,” he said.
He said the tweet did elicit a large negative response, but the city has mobilized efforts to check on high-risk patients. The city formed a task force with various city departments and some physically went to knock on doors, to understand what the residents’ needs are and how to help.
“We have been able to mobilize multiple city departments, to knock on doors, so people are not being left in the dark,” Arreguin said.
Even with @PGE4me independently setting the time and duration for planned outages, we created a task force working with organizations that serve people with access and functional needs.
— City of Berkeley (@CityofBerkeley) October 10, 2019
The mayor criticized PG&E for its lack of planning and coordination on these power outages, despite announcing them months ago. He said instead the responsibility fell to local cities and county jurisdictions.
Jim Morrissey, supervisor of Alameda County EMS, told this newspaper Thursday that if patients don’t have any other option, to call 9-1-1. Emergency personnel can determine if the patient needs to be transported, or can asses to see if there’s something else that can be done. Local fire departments countywide have been notified of high-risk patients that may have life-threatening issues during the outages.
On the mayor’s own website, he also advised residents to call the city of Berkeley Customer Service Line at 311 or 510-981-2489 and “consider evacuating if you have accessibility needs or you use life-sustaining medical equipment that is compromised during an outage.”