Power Outages Planned To Prevent Wildfires In 2019

Jun 25, 2019

This wildfire season you need to be ready for power outages. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is calling these outages “Public Safety Power Shutoffs.”

When weather like low humidity or high winds increases the risk for wildfire, PG&E may turn off your electricity. 

“So when you turn off the electric equipment, you eliminate the risk of a spark from a downed wire or some other piece of equipment,” says Jeff Smith, PG&E spokesperson. 

Smith believes it’s possible these outages could affect every one of PG&E’s 5.4 million customers at some point this wildfire season.  The planned blackouts could last just a few hours to more than two days.

That means no electricity for things like refrigeration, cell phone charging and medical equipment.  So you need a plan.

“For some customers that may end up being the purchase of a generator. For other customers that may mean making arrangements outside of their immediate area or where they could travel to a place that has electricity,” says Smith. 

Santa Cruz County Emergency Services Manager Rosemary Anderson says the county may create community charging stations in case of one of these blackouts.

“I think people need to be thinking about what is their level of personal preparedness and resilience within their homes. So if you do require medication to be refrigerated, what is your backup if your power goes off? Keeping in mind that these 'Public Safety Power Shutoffs' will have some advance notice,” says Anderson. 

She is also encouraging Santa Cruz residents to register for Code Red, a mass community notification system used in emergencies. In Monterey County authorities use Alert Monterey County.

PG&E will aim to give you 48 hours notice, but it could be less than that.  You’ll find out about it by text, email or however you currently communicate with PG&E.