PG&E: “Shutting Off Power During High Wildfire Threats” – What does it mean?

PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center will be staffed 24/7 to monitor fire threats and partner with first responders. (Photo by Chip Buchanan.)

NEVADA CITY, Calif. June 13, 2018 – By now, most PG&E customers received an email or letter explaining a new safety program designed to minimize vegetation fire starts caused by electrical lines.

In their message, the utility wrote: “For your safety, it may be necessary for us to temporarily turn off electricity to your neighborhood or community when extreme fire danger conditions occur. We know how much you rely on reliable electric service and would only consider temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety, and as a last resort. If we need to turn off your power, we will attempt to contact you in advance to ensure you have enough time to prepare. We will also provide updates until power is restored.”

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What does “extreme fire danger conditions” mean?

PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo referred to PG&E’s Wildfire Center, stating they are “monitoring conditions across PG&E’s entire network. Extreme conditions include strong predicted winds, low RH, critically dry vegetation.” The new center’s determination would kick off a long decision-making chain which could culminate in a power shut off for any area deemed to be in extreme conditions.

“There might not be a fire, but to prevent the possibility of our equipment causing one, we would take this step – after careful evaluation,” Merlo explained.

PG&E is cognizant of the hardship a loss of power causes to many area residents. Well pumps will no longer work, extended outages will cause disruption in people’s lives and impact people with medical conditions and the elderly especially hard during heat waves. The shut off is a last resort measure, Merlo insisted.

How will you know?

PG&E’s information urges customers to update their contact information and check if they are in an area that could have preemptive power shutoffs. You can check at https://m.pge.com/?WT_pgeac=Wildfire_Community-Impacted#high-fire-threat-map if you live in one of the high danger areas. More likely than not, you will see a message stating “Your location IS SERVED by a PG&E electric line that runs through an extreme fire-threat area. For safety, it may be necessary for us to temporarily turn off electric service when extreme fire danger conditions occur. Please prepare an emergency plan and update your contact information at pge.com/mywildfirealerts.”

PG&E will attempt to notify customers as far as 48 hours in advance, but conditions can change rapidly and so can the need to cut power, Merlo explained. The utility will work with local agencies, including county OES, cities and local news media to spread the word and provide updates to affected customers.

Merlo added every customer should prepare now for a potential wildfire and take the necessary precautions recommended by fire agencies.

PG&E has reached out to Nevada County to implement communication lines between the utility and county government.

Prepare Now

Nevada County residents should sign up for the county’s emergency alert system Code Red. Alerts can be sent via voice or text. Landline owners should have a corded backup phone that does not require power to receive and make calls.

Add CodeRED’s two phone numbers 1(866) 419-5000 and 1(855) 969-4636 to your cell phone and/or landline contacts as “CodeRED Emergency Alerts.” This way, when you receive a phone call from either of CodeRED’s phone numbers during an emergency event, you will be able to recognize the call as a CodeRED alert rather than easily mistaking the 1-866 or 1-855 number as a telemarketer. [source: Nevada County OES]

Be aware of weather conditions. Check your local media for red flag warnings, fire weather watches and prepare your Go Bag now. Better yet, keep one Go Bag in your vehicle and one at home. Prepare a checklist of items/actions to take if/when you receive an evacuation warning or an immediate evacuation order. Have a plan where to meet up with your family, who to contact and how to get out of your area.

Once you are prepared, practice!

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