ILCKC delivers emergency equipment to survive power shutoff

Dan Urban (left) and Lonnie Harris (middle) of ILCKC show Lake Isabella resident Steve Alvarez (right) how to use his new Yeti 3000X

Photos and Story by Catherine Stachowiak

The Independent Living Center of Kern County (ILCKC) has recently stepped up its efforts to assure Kern Valley residents have the disability equipment and life support they need to sustain them in times of fires and electrical outages.

Lonnie Harris, special projects provider for the agency invited the Kern Valley Sun, Wednesday April 10, to accompany him and his co-worker, special projects provider Dan Urban, while delivering a Yeti 3000X to a Lake Isabella resident, Steve Alvarez, who needed it.  

Harris said, “The PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff Program) exists because there’s high fire threat areas in Kern County. One of the biggest high fire threat areas is Kernville, Wofford Heights, and Lake Isabella.  And that’s all SCE territory. And so a lot of times during the summer or in the fall when it’s a risk for wildfire they will turn off the power to prevent wild fires.  And they have what’s called enhanced power lines, so if there’s a storm and a power line gets damaged, it turns it off automatically. So that’s where our program steps in.”

The Independent Living Center supports people with disabilities using durable medical equipment inside their homes relying on electricity with a backup power supply to keep a heart monitor going for more than 24 hours. If the electricity was to be turned off for longer, the program provides transportation and a room at a motel to go to a place with electricity.  It also provides them with food they need at the motel and gas to cover the costs to drive to the motel through pre paid visa.

“Our agency is dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities to thrive creatively, professionally, and personally, while also advocating for disability-related issues within the community,” Harris said.

People can contact Lonnie Harris to help them apply at (661) 325-1063 or apply on the website at  .  The only requirements are that the person has a disability; they have to be using some kind of durable medical equipment that requires electricity in their homes. And they must live in a high fire threat area to qualify.

Steve Alvarez was pretty pleased with his Yeti 3000X

The most common needs Harris comes across, in this area, are individuals on Oxygen and others with sleep apnea with CPAP machines

“The Kern River Valley is all classified as a high fire threat area,” he said. “I’ve been here for about four months, and I’ve probably given out about 10 batteries.” 

ILCKC assists the public with Medical Baseline Enrollment in the PG&E or SoCal Edison Medical Baseline Program, providing them with lower energy rates and advanced notifications during PSPS events.

Harris said, “I’ve developed a plan to increase the service availability in the Kern River Valley and the surrounding communities for this program because it’s geared towards people who live in a high fire threat area.”

This is just one free program they offer at the Independent Living Center.  They have independent living skills transition assistance for going into and coming out of such a living situation. 

The agency works to outreach for Kern County Aging and Disability, which assists aging and disabled.  

Harris assists people in applying for medical baseline, which saves money on equipment.

His agency also offers Red Cross first aid kits with every battery and a disaster preparedness plan.  

“We service all of Kern County so we do travel to anybody that’s living in Kern County,” Harris said.