Power off for wildfire safety

This California Public Utilities Commission map shows fire danger areas of elevated and extreme risk. Courtesy photo

Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric and other power companies throughout California will be shutting down power to fire-prone areas when there is potentially dangerous weather conditions, the utility groups recently announced.

“During these events, we will proactively turn off power in high fire risk areas to reduce the threat of wildfires. Turning off our customers’ power is not something we take lightly, but public safety power shut-off events are one of the ways we can better ensure the safety of the public, our customers and our employees,” Edison said in a recent statement.

Fire danger areas at either elevated or extreme risk include much of western Riverside County and North San Diego County, including the Fallbrook and Bonsall areas, Anza, Aguanga, all of the Cleveland National Forest area and most of the unincorporated areas in both counties, according to a California Public Utilities Commission map available online at www.cpuc.ca.gov.

How PSPS events work

Each utility determines when a PSPS is called and how it will be implemented, but when forecasts indicated elevated weather conditions such as high winds, high temperatures and dry vegetation, utility companies will assess the potential impact to affected areas, customers can expect a power shut-off, Edison explained.

If weather conditions warrant a possible public safety power shut-off, those affected would be notified twice before the actual shut-off occurs. The first notification would come two days before the shut-off with a second notification coming the day before the shut-off. If weather conditions persist, affected customers would be notified a third time, the day of the shut-off.

It is important to note that erratic or sudden onset of conditions can impact whether or not those notifications would be issued.

According to Edison, customers who do not live in high fire risk areas may also be impacted because of how the electrical grid is interconnected. Edison has a network of circuits providing power to 15 million people within a 50,000-square-mile area of central, coastal and Southern California so anyone in California could be impacted by a PSPS.

“PSPS events are temporary and are meant to keep you and your community safe,” Edison said.

Conditions for a PSPS?

Elevated weather conditions can cause vegetation or other items to be blown into power lines possibly creating a wildfire.

Edison said they consider a number of factors and conditions before declaring a PSPS including high winds to include red flag warnings issued by the National Weather Service, low humidity, dry vegetation that could serve as fuel, on the ground observations, fire threat to electric infrastructure and public safety risk.

How to prepare for a PSPS

It is important to prepare an emergency plan in advance as families could be affected by a power shut-off – or any other emergency.

Those potentially affected should have a personal safety plan in place for every member of their household, including pets. Plans should include what to do for any medical needs, such as medications that need to be refrigerated or devices that require power.

Build or restock an emergency supply kit, including food, water, flashlights, a radio, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash. Those potentially affected should also identify backup charging methods for phones, learn how to manually open the garage door and ensure, any backup generators are ready to safely operate.

For more information on preparing for public safety power shutdown, visit www.prepareforpowerdown.com.

According to Edison, while it is difficult to predict how often elevated weather conditions may occur, the threat of wildfires in California is real and growing. Californians need to be prepared with a plan and have an emergency kit. Edison customers can update their contact information and find helpful safety tips at www.sce.com/BePrepared.”

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com.