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My story on special needs customers who are still unaware of SDG&E’s impending shutoff plan was initially planned as a story on local opinions.

Debate over the plan has foamed on city councils, on editorial pages, and in Sacramento. It’s been debated by firefighters’ unions and county supervisors. But I wanted to know what some of the people who would be directly affected thought, because that perspective seemed to be lacking in coverage, and pretty important.

So I started knocking on doors. The first house I approached turned out to be Cathy Revetta’s, whose story I featured. A sign in her window read in big letters: “CAUTION: OXYGEN IN USE.”

When she told me she hadn’t heard of the plan, I was surprised. It led my reporting in a different direction, and I ultimately ended up writing the story we ran yesterday.

But I did continue knocking on doors and asking what people thought of the plan (after asking if they’d heard about it).

Here’s what they had to say:

El Cajon resident Jamie Widell is a radio dispatcher for Heartland Fire, which is made up of fire agencies serving East County and South Bay. She hadn’t heard of the plan.

“In order for them to get a real outcome and find out what people need, they need to let people know,” she said.

Suzie Carrera, of El Cajon, is a 20-year-old firefighter in training. She said she hadn’t heard of the plan either, but was most concerned about the elderly who might be especially affected.

“As the younger generation, we wouldn’t really have a problem,” Carrera said. “But there are a bunch of people who are old living in this community. … If they do turn off the power the company should be responsible for people who get hurt.”

Kelly Leader had heard about the plan. “It’s a huge inconvenience, but I can tolerate it, she said,” she said. But she recognized the potential difficulties that older residents could have in setting up generators. “My generator’s heavy. It takes me and my son to get it out here,” she said. “An elderly person with no family members would have a really hard time setting one up.”

She added: “SDG&E needs to be out there fixing the lines and not worrying about turning them off when the winds are high.”

Lori Fay, an Alpine business owner, said she supported the company’s shutoff plan. She comes from a family of firefighters and her husband is an SDG&E employee.

“People that have a life and death situation should be prepared, whether its wind or a fire or a blackout.” But she also said SDG&E could make more of an effort to help. “Buy these people generators.” Wouldn’t that be cheaper than settling lawsuits? she wondered.

Maria George, of El Cajon, didn’t know about the shutoff plan. “What can we do?” she asked. “We can’t do anything about it.”

Jerry Millsap, who retired as an SDG&E technician after 39 years in 2001, said the plan made sense. He got a letter from the company informing him of it.

“If everybody’s going to sue the company, that’s ridiculous,” he said. “These people should already have backup generators,” he said of the elderly and infirm. Even if they did, and the SDG&E plan went forward, he said “People are going to sue them for the inconvenience.”

ADRIAN FLORIDO

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