Public Safety Power Shutoffs



Wildfires throughout the State of California have prompted electric utilities to identify areas within their jurisdiction that are at risk for power-line ignited wildfires and take steps to prevent their occurrence. One of these steps is a proactive de-energization of electric lines, often called a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).

PSPS in Palo Alto

The City of Palo Alto has identified the Foothills as a high fire threat area. The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU), in conjunction with other City departments, will make a case-by-case decision to shut off power based on certain criteria. The following factors could result in CPAU, in conjunction with other City Staff, identifying that it may be necessary to shut off power: 

  • Red Flag Warnings issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) for the fire weather zone that includes the Foothills Area (Santa Cruz Mountains); 
  • City staff assessments of local conditions, including wind speed (sustained and gust), humidity and temperature, fuel moisture, fuel loading and data from weather stations; 
  • Real-time information from staff located in areas identified as at risk of being subject to extreme weather conditions; 
  • Input from City Fire and Urban Forestry staff; 
  • Input from local and state fire authorities regarding the potential consequences of wildfires in select locations; 
  • Awareness of mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders in place.

CPAU will consider the following when making a decision to shut off power:

  • Expected impact of de-energizing circuits on essential services;
  • Notifications to local governments and public officials; and
  • Safety and potential impacts to communities and customers.

Ideally, the decision will be made as soon as the information is available to facilitate an informed decision and allow for timely notification of customers. There may be instances where weather conditions rapidly change and advance notice to customers is not possible.

During a Power Outage

  • All public safety services will continue as normal
  • Fire stations will be open and staffed as normal
  • Other essential services will continue including water, gas and sewer services
  • The Palo Alto Fire Prevention Bureau will be fully staffed and functional. Unless the occupancy/site is impacted by the power shutoff, scheduled inspections will take place

Important Phone Numbers

Plan In Advance

  • Build an emergency supply kit.
  • Include items like food, water, cash, power banks, batteries, flashlights, pet food, and medicine. Have enough supplies on hand to last three days and refresh your kit once a year.
  • Plan for medical needs for you and your loved ones.
  • Make sure you have a backup power solution for your medical devices, and your prescriptions are filled. Ensure any backup generators are ready to operate safely.
  • Keep cash on hand and a full tank of gas. ATMs, credit card transactions, and gas stations may not be operating during an outage.
  • If you drive an electric vehicle, have your car fully charged.

Household Outage Tips

  • Learn how to manually open your garage or any other door that operates with electricity.
  • Talk with your building manager if you live or work in a building that has electronic key card access to understand how they will deal with a possible multi-day outage.
  • If you don’t have a surge protector, unplug or turn off appliances, equipment, and electronics to avoid damage caused by surges when the power is restored.
  • Typically, your refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours, and a full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours — as long as the freezer and refrigerator doors are kept closed. Consider using coolers with ice to keep food cold and safe.
  • If you need to use generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills, use only outdoors in a safe area. Do not use a gas stove for heat.
  • Leave a single lamp on before the outage occurs; that way, you will know once the power returns.
  • Check on your neighbors who have medical issues or live alone.

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