Wildfire 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. One of our preventative measures to help protect against wildfires is Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. These events may be called during extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions.
Public Safety Power Shutoff
Changing weather conditions are putting our region at increased risk for wildfires. Although we’ve made great efforts to protect our communities, there are still times during extreme weather when we may shut off power for public safety.
If there’s a fire, sometimes fire officials or other agencies will also ask us to cut power to keep the community and/or their crews safe. A number of critical factors are taken into consideration before this decision is made. Whatever the circumstances, we’ll make every effort to communicate with you in advance. Please know that turning off power in the interest of safety isn’t a decision we take lightly. It’s a last resort during extreme situations.
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.
Timeline for a Public Safety Power Shutoff
Public Safety Power Shutoff Resources
Learn more about a Public Safety Power Shutoff and the steps we take to restore power afterward.
Public Safety Power Shutoff FAQs
We take our responsibility to operate the electric grid very seriously. If conditions threaten the integrity of our system, we will turn off power to protect public safety. Some of the factors that are taken into consideration 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 out 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 sustained 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. Before we can restore power, crews must patrol lines to assess whether there is any damage. It is difficult to predict how long a patrol might take, given the varied length of each power line, the terrain and whether aerial patrols are required. 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.
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 extreme weather, 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 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.
Yes. SDG&E has the authority to turn off the power in emergency situations when necessary to protect public safety. Please visit http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M218/K186/218186823.PDF to read the CPUC resolution establishing requirements for power shutoff, and http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/WORD_PDF/FINAL_DECISION/165063.PDF to read the CPUC decision confirming SDG&E’s statutory authority to do so.
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 significant improvements to its electric grid when it comes to wildfire preparedness, but when dangerous fire conditions are present, it is hard to prevent a tarp or a palm frond, as examples, 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 eliminated, protecting our communities from the potential of another catastrophic wildfire.
Community resource centers may open
We have established community resource centers in fire-prone communities, so residents will have a place to go for information and get basic needs met during an extended Public Safety Power Shutoff.