What is a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
During Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events, PG&E can shut off power to their distribution and transmission lines (also known as de-energizing) to prevent their equipment from starting a wildfire. Power could remain off for as long as seven days.
In May 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gave PG&E full discretion in deciding whether to call PSPS events, though PG&E is directed to work with the relevant local government agencies to communicate in advance about the possibility of de-energization and during a PSPS event. This means the City of San José or other government agencies are not able to stop a PSPS from happening.
PG&E will use a number of factors determine whether to call a PSPS event, including weather conditions such as heat/temperature, wind, and low-humidity. The CPUC has identified the areas surrounding San José as elevated fire-threat, with some parts as extreme fire-threat.
Could I be affected by PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs?
Since everyone in San José is a PG&E customer for electric delivery, anyone could be impacted by a PG&E PSPS, if power is shut off in your area.
San José Clean Energy provides electric generation service only, while PG&E provides electric delivery and owns, operates and maintains all transmission and distribution infrastructure.
If PG&E shuts off power to one of its transmission lines, the South Bay could be affected. PG&E’s transmission and distribution lines pass through areas surrounding San José that the CPUC has identified as elevated fire-threat, with some parts as extreme fire-threat.
Can the City of San José or County of Santa Clara stop PG&E from calling a Public Safety Power Shutoff?
No. In May 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission gave PG&E full discretion in deciding whether to call PSPS events. This means the City of San José or other government agencies are not able to stop a PSPS from happening.
Will I get advance notice of a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
If possible, PG&E has indicated it will warn customers 48 and 24 hours in advance through emails, calls and text messages. It’s important to make sure your contact information with PG&E is up-to-date. Visit www.pge.com/psps to update it.
As soon it has PSPS information from PG&E, the City of San José will also inform residents and businesses through Nextdoor, Twitter, Facebook, and alert notifications to mobile devices and emails.
How do I know if PG&E has my contact information?
Call 1-866-743-6589 or visit www.pge.com/psps to update your contact information or create an online profile.
How long will PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs last?
PG&E estimates PSPS events could last as long as seven days, depending on heat, humidity, and wind. If PG&E shuts off power to one of its transmission lines, the outage could last longer and a larger part of the South Bay could be affected.
How often will PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs occur?
PG&E anticipates that PSPS events could occur several times per year in its service area, but it is impossible to predict when and where they will occur.
How can I prepare for a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
Second, create an emergency plan that accounts for all family member needs for a multi-day power shutoff, including:
- 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
- Know how to manually open your garage door
- Ensure any backup generators are ready to safely operate
When are PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs most likely to happen?
Ultimately, PG&E has full discretion to evaluate real-time and on the ground information to determine whether to call a PSPS. PG&E said these factors can include: red flag warnings (weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior), low humidity levels, forecasted sustained winds above 25 mph, wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph, and condition of dry fuel.
I’m a Medical Baseline customer and depend on electricity for my medical condition. Will my power be turned off? What should I do during a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
If PG&E shuts off a powerline, all customers who receive power from that line would be affected.
PG&E’s website says it will notify Medical Baseline customers based on their preferred contact method before a PSPS. PG&E said if it doesn’t speak to you or a family member directly, or receive confirmation of the email or text they send, they will follow up with a phone call. If a phone call is not successful, PG&E says it will make every effort to attempt to notify you in person at your address.
On its website (www.pge.com/psps), PG&E asks all customers, including Medical Baseline customers, to develop an emergency plan.
What resources are available to me during a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
PG&E has indicated it may open customer resource centers during a PSPS event to provide information, water, and charging for small devices. PG&E has indicated it will not be a shelter or cooling center.
I have solar. Will I be impacted by a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
Your solar system will probably NOT be producing electricity during a PSPS event, unless you have a special inverter or battery storage. This is because utility rules mandate that in the event of a power outage, solar arrays must automatically shut down to ensure repair crew safety. During an outage, the power utility sends out crews to repair powerlines; a solar array would leak power onto grid lines and endanger them.
Why could a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff last for seven days?
On its website, PG&E details the process for restoration of power:
- PG&E will call a PSPS event in response to extreme weather, which could last several hours or days.
- Once the extreme weather has passed, PG&E crews will work to visually inspect the impacted powerlines during daylight hours to ensure they are free from damage and safe to energize. If necessary, PG&E crews will also make repairs. PG&E says it aims to complete inspection and repairs within 24 to 48 hours after extreme weather has passed.
Why could urban areas see their power turned off during a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
PG&E’s April 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan notes that shutting off high voltage transmission lines could result in a cascading effect that causes other transmission and distribution lines – potentially far from the original fire-risk areas – to also be shut off. This is due to the interconnected nature of the power grid. The Plan notes that power could be shut off to urban areas like San Francisco if multiple East Bay transmission lines were to be shut off due to extreme weather conditions.
Will the City continue to provide services like Police and Fire during a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
Yes, the City will continue to provide services like Police and Fire. Many of these facilities have backup power sources. Please call 911 only for emergencies, not to get information.
What should I do during a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
During a PG&E power shutoff, affected residents will be asked to shelter in place, unless they can’t (e.g., they need to seek electricity to power their medical devices, they need to receive care, etc.).
Traffic signals and streetlights affected by a PG&E power shutoff will not work, potentially leading to congestion or hazardous conditions. Please follow these safety tips:
- Once the power is out, limit your driving as much as possible.
- Approach intersections with caution.
- Treat non-working traffic signals like stop signs.
- Avoid driving at night if possible.
- If you must drive at night, use your headlights, stay alert, and be on the lookout for people walking and biking. There will be no streetlights to illuminate them.
- If you must walk or bike after dark, use a headlight or flashlight. Wear bright or reflective clothing. Wear a helmet if biking.
- Obey all road closures and detours.
Should I use tap water during a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
Some utilities and services may not work during a PG&E power shutoff, including drinking water treatment and water pumping. Please check with your drinking water provider. In case these do not function, please prepare by storing enough water to last a seven-day PG&E power shutoff: one gallon per day per person and pet in your household.
Will my cell phone or landline work during a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff?
- Cell phones: Cell phone towers usually have battery backup and/or generators, and thus will function for two to five days. You may have service for as long as you have battery power on your phone. It is advised to buy an external battery or a charger powered by a solar panel or hand crank to stay connected during a PG&E PSPS event.
- Landlines: There are two kinds of landline services: rotary phones Voice over IP (VoIP). Rotary phones will not have power issues, while VoIP will not work as they depend on internet modems, which will go out during a power outage.
The network for both cell phones and landlines may be clogged from call volume.