Power shutoffs for wildfire prevention

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Utility companies may temporarily turn off power to specific areas to reduce the risk of fires caused by electric infrastructure during weather events, particularly when there is a high risk for wildfires. This action is called a Public Safety Power Shutoff or Public Safety Outage Management.

High winds can break branches or blow other items into power lines, or damage electrical lines directly, possibly starting a wildfire. Under certain conditions utility companies may temporarily shut off power to customers to help prevent wildfires. A number of factors are considered before declaring a shutoff, including

  • High winds and strong gusts
  • Dry vegetation that could serve as fuel for a wildfire
  • Low humidity
  • Real-time observations by a weather sensor network
  • Fire threat to electric infrastructure
  • Red flag warnings declared by the National Weather Service

Who is affected?
All customers served by the utility company are affected and everyone should be prepared for the possibility of a shutoff.

Medical devices | If you need backup power sources during an outage, contact your utilitycompany and sign up for assistance in advance of an outage. Find a list of local utility companies on page 8. Call and tell them you have a medically fragile household.

Wells & septic systems | When power goes out, so do well pumps and septic systems that have a pump. People with wells should have plenty of water on hand for drinking, flushing toilets, etc.

Preparing for a shutoff

  • Confirm your contact information to receive outage and emergency updates.
  • Plan for medical needs that may be impacted by a loss of power. If you depend on medications that need refrigeration or medical devices that require power, call your utility company for assistance.
  • Create an emergency kit composed of items such as flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies, non-perishable food and water.
  • Keep your cell phones and other electronic devices fully charged. Consider purchasing a back-up battery device or car charger.
  • Keep a full tank of gas and cash on hand for emergency purchases, as gas stations, ATMs and bank services may be impacted during an outage.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed to prevent your food from spoiling.
  • Unplug appliances to prevent hazards or damage when service is restored.
  • Consider purchasing a generator for your home.
  • Know how to manually open a garage door.
  • Keep hard copies of important information and phone numbers.

Restoring power
Once the threat has passed, utility companies will restore power to transmission lines once it’s determined safe to turn power on. This may take up to 24 hours to complete.

Sources: California Public Utilities Commission, NV Energy and 211.

Medical assistance

If you need immediate medical assistance during a planned outage, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest ER or Urgent Care. Hospitals are open during planned outages.

Electric & gas companies / Empresas de electricidad y gas

Read Tahoe Guide’s 4th Annual Wildfire Preparedness Guide