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City Employees Power Through the Blackout

Most of our experiences started out the same way; we were at work and noticed the electricity all of a sudden went out. Then we started getting the calls and texts from friends and family members who were also without power. Next came the challenge of trying to make our way home which entailed maneuvering through gridlock traffic on the side streets and freeways. Although it was incredibly tedious and inconvenient, most San Diegans arrived home within an hour or two of the blackout. Yet for many dedicated City employees, this wasn’t the end of the workday, but just the beginning! The following three MEA members are just a few of the countless City employees who worked late into the night in order to make sure the rest of us were safe and sound. Although you will never get the credit you rightfully deserve, thank you for your unwavering commitment to public service!

Stephanie Galbicka

Fire Dispatcher

Fire Rescue

I was at home when the electricity went off but headed to work (Fire Communications) to see if they needed my help. When I arrived, it was organized chaos with everyone doing their part to get all of the calls answered and to dispatch emergency services. Calls ranged from people who were trapped in elevators to life-threatening accidents. On an average day, Fire Communications takes around 500 calls; we took approximately 800 calls just during the hours of the blackout!

Gabrielle Mead

Police Enforcement Officer

Police Department

I was working in the Hillcrest area when I first noticed that the street lights were not working. I soon received the news that the power was out throughout San Diego County. Due to the high volume of intersection lights that were out through the city, we were instructed to stay in the field and to help enforce four way stops at busy intersections. As it began to get dark, I turned on my vehicle’s headlights and flashing lights and tried to control the flow of traffic while also making sure that motorists and pedestrians were not blocking the intersections for the many emergency vehicles trying to enter and exit the nearby hospital.

Although it was congested and chaotic, most people were considerate toward one another and some were even appreciative of my efforts to help control the flow of traffic in order to get them home as safe and fast as possible.

I left Hillcrest around 9pm and there were still lots of people out walking around and patronizing the local establishments. All in all, everyone was in a good mood and it almost seemed like the outage was a reason for people to get together and to share their stories of where they were and how they eventually made it home after the power went out.

Lisa Goehring

Public Utilities

I was coming back from MEA’s Political Action Committee meeting and had just parked at the City Concourse. I was heading to a meeting with my boss and was in the elevator when it suddenly jerked to a stop. The lights went out momentarily but an emergency light came on and I rang the alarm button a few times. Then I tried the emergency call button which connected to a dispatcher but the signal was very garbled and I soon lost the connection.

I started trying my cell phone but it couldn’t pick up much in the elevator. I finally managed to get a voicemail thru to my supervisor. Luckily, I had the Parkade security number with me and eventually got thru to someone to let them know my elevator was stuck. At this point, I still wasn’t aware of the massive blackout.

After about 30 or 40 minutes, I began receiving texts from my supervisor who let me know that there was a massive power failure.

I could hear people outside but it was hard for them to hear me. They said help would be coming but it could be a while.

About two and half hours later, I could hear the outside doors open above me. I was right between the terrace and street level of the structure and there was no direct access to the elevator except from the top.

Finally, I heard actual footsteps on top of the elevator and the access door opened. Within minutes, I was climbing up a very skinny ladder out onto the roof of the elevator. A couple firefighters grabbed my hands and helped me leap up another couple feet to the terrace level.

A bunch of cheers went up and the first face I saw was Sherri Lightner (who I’d just met that morning at our PAC mtg!) She gave me a hug and her staff gave me water. Some of the guys who had been trying to pry the outside doors open were also still there along with the Parkade staff and the fire crew from Station One who we all thanked. Eventually, I was able to head home with enough time to find all my candles and flashlights before it got dark!