As the 2018 fire season gets into full swing in California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is reaching out to customers who live in or near high fire-threat areas to let them know that, if extreme fire danger conditions occur, it may be necessary for PG&E to temporarily turn off power to their neighborhood or community for safety.
Proactively turning off power for public safety is one part of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program, which implements additional precautionary measures intended to reduce wildfire threats and strengthen communities for the future. PG&E would only turn off power in the interest of public safety and as a last resort during extreme weather conditions.
“PG&E has a plan to deal with the growing threat of extreme weather and wildfires that our state has been experiencing,” said Kevin Dasso, PG&E vice president of Electric Asset Management. “We want our customers to have plans, too. That is why we are reaching out now to help our customers and communities take steps to prepare for wildfire season and possible power outages in the name of public safety.”
Wildfire Safety Operations Center: Monitoring of Fire Danger Conditions
PG&E’s new Wildfire Safety Operations Center will monitor conditions across the company’s service area during wildfire season. While no single factor will drive a Public Safety Power Shutoff, some of the many factors that will inform the decision include: strong winds, very low humidity levels, and critically dry vegetation that could serve as fuel for a wildfire. PG&E will also consider on-the-ground, real-time observations from field crews, among other factors.
If PG&E needs to turn off power for safety, it will be limited to neighborhoods or communities served by electric lines that run through areas experiencing extreme fire danger conditions. PG&E will turn the power back on as soon as it is safe to do so. The most likely electric lines to be considered for shutting off for safety will be those in areas that have been designated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as at extreme risk for wildfire (Tier 3 areas), based on the CPUC’s latest High Fire-Threat District map.
When and where possible, PG&E will provide early warning notification as well as updates until power is restored. Extreme weather threats can change quickly. If conditions allow, PG&E will provide notice to customers between one hour to 48 hours in advance through automated phone calls, texts and emails.
For planning purposes, PG&E suggests customers served by electric lines in extreme fire-threat areas consider their service may need to be turned off 1-2 times during wildfire season, although it is impossible to predict future weather conditions in the “new normal” of extreme weather events. While in most cases PG&E would expect to be able to restore power within 24 hours after the extreme weather has passed and inspections have begun, outages could last multiple days depending on conditions.
Preparing for Outages
PG&E is working together with customers, local municipalities, first responders and other stakeholders to share information and help communities prepare for and stay safe during extreme weather events. As part of this commitment to public safety, PG&E is mailing letters and sending emails to more than 570,000 homes and businesses served by electric lines in extreme fire-threat areas informing them that it may be necessary for PG&E to temporarily turn off electricity.
As part of these preparedness efforts, PG&E is asking customers to:
•Learn whether their home or business is in or near a high fire-threat area on the CPUC High Fire-Threat District map. Customers also can visit pge.com/wildfiresafety to enter their address and find out if their home or business is served by an electric line that may be turned off for safety during high wildfire threats.
•Update their contact information at pge.com/mywildfirealerts or by calling 1-866-743-6589 during normal business hours. PG&E will use this information to alert customers in advance of turning off their electric service for safety, when and where possible.
•Prepare for and practice an emergency plan to keep themselves, their families and/or employees emergency-ready and safe during an outage. Information and tips including a safety plan checklist are available at pge.com/wildfiresafety.