Amid Growing Wildfire Threats, PG&E Expands Public Safety Power Shutoff Program
Given the continued and growing threat of extreme weather and wildfires, and as an additional precautionary measure following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, PG&E is expanding and enhancing their Community Wildfire Safety Program to further reduce wildfire risks and help keep customers and the communities they serve safe. This includes expanding their Public Safety Power Shutoff program beginning with the 2019 wildfire season to include all electric lines that pass through high fire-threat areas – both distribution and transmission.
“We know how much our customers rely on electric service and that there are safety risks on both sides,” PG&E acknowledged in their program materials. “We will only pro-actively turn off lines in the interest of safety to help reduce the likelihood of an ignition when extreme fire danger conditions are forecasted.”
While customers in high fire-threat areas are more likely to be affected, any of PG&E’s more than 5 million electric customers could have their power shut off if their community relies upon a line that passes through a high fire-threat area.
Public Safety Power Shutoff Criteria
PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center (WSOC) monitors fire danger conditions across their service area and evaluates whether to turn off electric power lines in the interest of safety.
While no single factor will drive a Public Safety Power Shutoff, some factors include:
- A Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Low humidity levels (generally 20% and below)
- Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45mph, depending on location and site-specific conditions such as temperature, terrain and local climate
- Condition of dry fuel on the ground and live vegetation (moisture content)
- On-the-ground, and in real-time observations from PG&E’s WSOC and fiels observations from PG&E crews.
Potentially Impacted Areas
The most likely electric lines to be considered for shutting off for safety will be those that pass through areas that have been designated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as at elevated (Tier 2) or extreme (Tier 3) risk for wildfire. This includes both distribution and transmission lines. (See map above for area designations)
The specific area and number of affected customers will depend on forecasted weather conditions and which circuits PG&E needs to turn off for public safety.
Although a customer may not live or work in a high fire-threat area, their power may also be shut off if their community relies upon a line that passes through an area experiencing extreme fire danger conditions.
This means that any customer who receives electric service from PG&E should be prepared for a possible public safety power outage.
PSPS Event Notifications
Extreme weather threats can change quickly. When and where possible, PG&E will provide customers with advance notice prior to turning off the power. They will also provide updates until power is restored.
PG&E will attempt to reach customers through calls, texts and emails using the contact information they have on file. They will also use pge.com and social media channels, and will keep local news and radio outlets informed and updated.
When possible, the timing of notifications will include:
- ~ 48 hours before power is turned off
- ~ 24 hours before power is turned off
- Just before power is turned off
- During the public safety outage
- Once power has been restored
Working with Customers
PG&E is continuing to reach out to customers and communities about wildfire safety and steps they can take to prepare their homes, families and businesses. Here are some tips to keep you prepared:
- Update your contact info by visiting pge.com/mywildfirealerts today to make sure we have your current contact information.
- Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
- Plan for any medical needs like medications that need to be refrigerated or devices that require power.
- Build or restock your emergency kit with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
To learn more about PG&E’s Community Wildefire Safety Program:
Call PG&E at 1-866-743-6589