Power Outages and Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Events

Due to the fire risk posed by extreme weather conditions in the forecast, PG&E currently anticipates proactively turning off power and implementing a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in parts of the Oakland between Sunday PM10/25 and Wednesday AM 10/28

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Date Posted: August 28th, 2020 @ 9:31 AM
Last Updated: January 20th, 2021 @ 7:52 PM

Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS)
High temperatures, extreme dryness, and record-high winds have created conditions in our state where any spark at the wrong time and place can lead to a major wildfire. If severe weather threatens a portion of the electric system, it may be necessary for PG&E to turn off electricity in the interest of public safety. This is known as a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).

The City of Oakland, like other jurisdictions around the state, are learning from past events and preparing for the next. According to PG&E, this year they are working to improve their PSPS program by making events smaller in size and shorter in length.

How Does PG&E Determine When to Shut Off Power for Safety?

According to PG&E, if severe weather threatens a portion of the electric system, it may be necessary for PG&E to turn off electricity in the interest of public safety. No single factor drives a PSPS, as each situation is unique. PG&E reviews a combination of many criteria when determining if power should be turned off for safety. These factors generally include, but are not limited to:

  • A Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service
  • Low humidity levels, generally 20 percent and below
  • Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph, depending on location and site-specific conditions such as temperature, terrain and local climate
  • Condition of dry material on the ground and live vegetation (moisture content)
  • On-the-ground, real-time observations from PG&E's Wildfire Safety Operations Center and field crews

It is important to note that while PG&E monitors and takes into consideration Red Flag Warnings issued from the National Weather Service, the issuance of a Red Flag Warning does not automatically trigger a PSPS if local conditions do not warrant activation.

How to Stay Safe When an Outage Threatens

A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. Extended power outages may impact the whole community including residents and businesses. A power outage may:

  • disrupt communications, water, and transportation
  • close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks, and other services
  • cause food spoilage and water contamination
  • prevent use of medical devices

Be sure to make sure PG&E can reach you in an emergency by updating your contact information at pge.com/mywildfirealerts.

Prepare NOW

  • Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.
  • Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
  • Sign up for local alerts and warning systems. Monitor weather reports.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home.
  • Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.
  • Review the supplies that you available in case of a power outage. Examples: flashlights with extra batteries for every household member; enough nonperishable food and water for every household member.
  • Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so that you can know the temperature when the power is restored. Throw out food if the temperature is 40 degrees or higher.
  • Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged and gas tanks full.

How to Stay Safe During the Outage

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
  • Maintain food supplies that do not require refrigeration.
  • Only use generators outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove to heat your home.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows. Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Check on your neighbors. Older adults and young children are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
  • Go to a community location with power if heat or cold is extreme.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. Power may return with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can cause damage.
  • If safe, go to an alternate location for heat or cooling.

Safe Use of Generators

According to the California Fire Code section 4909.8.5 Equipment and Devices Generating Heat, Sparks or Open Flames. Equipment and devices generating heat, sparks or open flames capable of igniting nearby combustibles shall not be used in Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Areas without a permit from the code official.

Exception: Use of approved equipment in habituated premises or designated campsites that are a minimum of 30 feet (9144 mm) from grass-, grain-, brush- or forest-covered areas.

The use of portable generators is allowed as an alternative power source for residential occupancies and structures. That stated, there are requirements to their safe use and operation.

  1. Generators shall be located and operated at least 30 feet away from dry grass, brush or other combustible vegetation such as leaf litter, shrubs, low tree branches or combustible storage & debris.
  2. When possible, it is the best, safest practice to stage and operate the portable generator on a flat, non-combustible surface such as a concrete walkway or paved driveway to prevent accidental movement or impact that could result in the generator tipping over or spilling its fuel.
  3. Generators shall be positioned so that the exhaust produced by its operation does not enter the home and these appliances shall never be placed indoors or inside garages while running as they exhaust is an inhalation hazard.
  4. Re-fueling of generators shall be done only when the generator is OFF and has cooled so as NOT to ignite fuel dispensed from portable gas cans.
  5. A fire extinguisher shall be kept in the immediate vicinity (within 25 feet) of the operating generator.
  6. Do not overload the electrical output of the generator. Refer to the owner’s manual for proper use and operation and it’s specific power supply limitations.
  7. Make sure any extension cords used in conjunction with the generator are in good condition and properly connected.

Be Safe AFTER the Outage

  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use medicine only until a new supply is available.

Additional Resources

  • Launched in February 2003, Ready is a National public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to promote preparedness through public involvement. Ready and its Spanish language version Listo ask individuals to do four key things:

(1) Stay informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses

(2) Make a family emergency plan

(3) Build an emergency supply kit

(4) Get involved in your community by taking action to prepare for emergencies.

  • The Oakland Fire Department is proud to partner with the Oakland Community Preparedness & Response (OCP&R) program which provides awareness, educational workshops, detailed guides and support to help you be better prepared to respond to incidents including power outages.

The OCP&R curriculum covers creating and sustaining organized neighborhoods, understanding emergency alerts and notifications, developing evacuation plans, preparing for and responding to Public Safety Power Shutoffs, hardening homes against wildfire and earthquake threats and much more.

Please visit the OCP&R site to learn more: www.oaklandcpandr.org/prepare