Public Safety Power Shutoffs
Our number one priority is the safety of our customers. During adverse weather conditions, a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) may be used to help prevent potential wildfires. This is always a last resort and done to help protect the communities we serve.
Safety is Our Priority
As California’s climate conditions have changed, the traditional idea of a fire “season” has evolved into a year-long battle against stronger, faster wildfires. SDG&E has spent more than a decade to build out a wildfire safety program that includes:
- Fire hardening our infrastructure
- Building a fire science and meteorology department to better forecast and prepare for wildfires
- Implementing innovative technology like our weather stations, camera network, drones and fire prediction modeling to watch for potential threats
Even with all our investments to reduce the risk of wildfire, there are times where we may have to shut off the power to our electric circuits to ensure that flying debris doesn't make contact with power lines and cause an ignition.
What is a Public Safety Power Shutoff?
Watch our video to learn more about Public Safety Power Shutoffs, why they are called and how you can stay informed.
You can also learn more about what California's largest energy companies are doing to address the threat of wildfire and Public Safety Power Shutoffs at prepareforpowerdown.com.
Community Resource Centers
As part of our plan to support customers during Public Safety Power Shutoffs, we have established community resource centers in specific communities. These resource centers will open up so residents affected by power shutoffs will have a place to go for information. Plus, they’ll have access to water, snacks, ice and mobile phone charging.
We take our responsibility to operate the electric grid very seriously. If conditions threaten our ability to safely operate the system, we will turn off power to protect public safety. We take into consideration many items before deciding to shutoff power. These factors include, but are not limited to: the circumstances of the emergency, wind speed measurements, vegetation moisture, temperature, humidity, field observations by SDG&E crews and information from fire agencies.
We've developed a way to reduce the number of customers impacted when conditions may lead to a power shutoff in high-fire threat areas. Additional weather stations and electrical devices improve our ability to divide an electric circuit into smaller sections. We can be more precise when shutting off power so the number of customers impacted by a power shutoff is smaller.
Power will remain shut off as long as the threat to our system and public safety continues —that is, as long as winds are creating a safety issue near and around our electric infrastructure. When the winds are reduced for a longer period of time, our crews will then patrol the lines to check for system damage from wind-blown debris or any other problems before the power is turned on. It is difficult to predict how long a patrol might take, as it depends on the length of each power line, the terrain and whether aerial patrols are needed. Some circuits are in rural, mountainous areas that require a helicopter to patrol. In those cases, wind speeds need to be below 35 mph for the helicopter to fly safely. Additionally, for safety reasons, our crews cannot patrol at night.
It’s important to remember that improved weather conditions are not the only factor that determines whether a line is safe to re-energize. Restoring power to customers can be a long process. First, we need to record reduced wind speeds for a sustained period, then allow 4–8 hours of daylight for SDG&E field crews to patrol the line. When patrolling, crews are looking for safety hazards like downed lines, debris or tree branches caught on the line, broken hardware or issues related to communication wires. If there is any damage to the power lines or poles, repairs must be made first before power can be restored.
In the case of fire or other adverse weather conditions, this process can take days. You may see our trucks in your neighborhood as you continue to experience an outage. The information they gather helps us plan our work.
During a power shutoff, addressing hazardous situations like downed lines is a priority. Then, we work on restoring as many customers as we can, as soon as we can. We also prioritize repairs to restore service for critical needs such as hospitals, water pumping stations and police and fire departments.
As we work to restore power to everyone, you may see lights on in your vicinity, while your location remains in the dark. Different parts of a neighborhood may be on different circuits, and not all circuits are restored at the same time.
SDG&E recommends investing in a landline to ensure a stable communication channel, as well as for SDG&E and first responders to reach you in an emergency. Additional solutions include purchasing a small radio with a crank or solar power to stay informed with the latest news. Many retail outlets offer low cost battery supply packs that should be kept charged and can provide backup charging power to your cell phone and other small electronics. Mobile devices can also be charged in a vehicle with a low-cost adapter. It is always advised to know where your local law enforcement and fire stations are located; they should have the latest information.
If you are in a high-fire threat area, there may be Community Resource Centers available to charge small devices, or you may consider keeping a generator on hand for your home.
Yes. SDG&E has the authority to turn off the power in emergency situations when necessary to protect public safety. If you would like to read the resolution from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that establishes requirements for power shutoffs, click here. To read the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision confirming SDG&E’s statutory authority to do so, click here.
It’s important to remember that power lines from a well-maintained and well-designed power grid can still ignite a catastrophic wildfire. Over the past several years, SDG&E has made major improvements to its electric grid when it comes to wildfire preparedness. But, when dangerous fire conditions are present, it's hard to prevent a tarp or a palm frond from whipping through 80 mph wind gusts directly into power lines, creating an ignition. These illustrate the type of conditions that SDG&E must plan and prepare for to protect the safety of our customers. With no power flowing through power lines during windy conditions, an ignition source is removed, protecting our communities from the potential of another catastrophic wildfire.
Update Your Contact Information
Living in Southern California means living with the possibility of wildfires happening in your community. To prepare for these events and for the latest information, make sure your contact information is up-to-date in My Account.