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Electric Outage Preparedness

Electrical emergencies can happen any time. Whether it’s an accident or a weather-related situation, occasional power outages are simply unavoidable. However, you can easily prepare for the unexpected loss of power.

Download and print this checklist of storm and emergency preparedness resources to keep handy around your home or business. 

To prepare for a potential power outage, you may need to take several of the following steps:

  • Utilize an emergency supply kit with enough water, food, medicine, batteries and flashlights to last several days.
  • Arrange a communication and meet-up plan with your family or neighbors in case cell phones do not work. 
  • Have your vehicle gas tank filled and cash on hand (as electronic transaction devices and ATM machines will be without power).

Checklist of Items to Have Available

  • battery-powered emergency lighting (or flashlights, at a minimum)
  • portable or battery-powered radio
  • wind-up or battery-powered clock
  • nonperishable food and water (including a manual can opener)
  • pet food
  • first aid kit
  • telephone that does not depend on electricity

Other 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 several hours, and a full freezer will hold its temperature for about a couple of days — 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.

Safety During an Outage

If the Power Goes Out

  • Check our power outage map to confirm the location and size of the outage. 
  • Call us at (650) 496-6914 with the phone number associated with your utility account to report an outage. Line busy? Try multiple times as you may have info others don’t.
  • Follow us on Twitter @PAUtilities and check this webpage for updates.
  • Our crews are working around the clock to restore service when the power or other utility services are disrupted.

Protect Yourself and Your Family

Storms and power outages can be dangerous. Follow these guidelines to keep yourselves safe:

  • Stay away from all downed power lines and poles.
  • Watch out for nearby power lines when you use a ladder or work on your roof.
  • Stay inside your car if a power line falls across it when you’re in it. Warn others away and wait for rescue personnel. If you must get out due to fire or other danger, hop with both feet together or jump out without touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time.
  • If you smell gas, do not turn any lights or appliances on or off. Do not look for a gas leak yourself. Leave the area and call 911 or report it immediately to City of Palo Alto Utilities at (650) 329-2579.
  • Do not try to turn on your gas meter or service yourself if it has been shut off. Call Utilities at (650) 329-2579 to do so as this is an important safety measure. 

Public Safety Power Shutoffs

A Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) is a preventative measure that a utility may use under extreme weather conditions to de-energize electric lines in areas that may be at risk for power-line ignited wildfires. The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) may need to preemptively shut off power when there may be fire-threat conditions; however, this option will only be used as a last resort in extraordinary circumstances. Learn more about Public Safety Power Shutoffs and how to prepare for such outages.

Home Electric Safety

Follow these simple electrical safety tips to avoid dangerous situations, such as fire. Always follow appliance instructions for improved electrical safety.

  • Don't overload electric outlets.
  • Replace or repair damaged electrical cords.
  • Keep your used and unused cords tidy.
  • Unplug all of your unused appliances to reduce potential risks.
  • Keep water away from electrical devices and outlets.
  • Give your appliances proper space for air circulation.
  • Ensure that all of your exhaust fans are clean to prevent fire hazards.
  • Check that you’re using the correct wattage in your fixtures and appliances.

Medical Necessity Customers

Since power outages can occur at any time, for extended duration, and with no guarantee of which line can be energized in a particular sequence, we recommend that our customers with ongoing, in-home medical conditions requiring power supply consult with their healthcare provider on how best to prepare for power outages. The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) does not maintain a priority “medical restoration list." Adequate back-up power alternatives for specific needs may include:  additional supplies of device batteries; a properly-sized, pre-charged uninterruptible power supply; an onsite generator, etc. 

If anyone with a medical necessity experiences a power outage of any duration that threatens health or safety, please call 911.

PG&E and Electrical Service in Palo Alto

PG&E manages the electric transmission grid for the entire Bay Area, including Palo Alto. While PG&E does not directly serve electricity to City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) customers, the City intakes electricity from PG&E’s transmission system. CPAU monitors and manages its own electric distribution infrastructure based on weather and safety assessments. A PG&E power shutdown due to wildfire or other risk is not likely to affect the majority of CPAU customers. If power is planned to be shut off, CPAU will inform any potential affected customers as soon as possible.

Read more about PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shut-off program at pge.com/psps

Learn more about the City of Palo Alto's wildfire prevention and mitigation strategies and what you can expect from us:

  • Wildfire Prevention – Vegetation management, electric line inspections, prioritized maintenance, tree trimming & inspection to prevent contact with electric lines.
  • Early Warning Notification – The City will aim to send customer alerts if anticipating a potential PSPS.
  • Ongoing Updates – Through social media, email, phone call, text, website, or AlertSCC.
  • Safety Inspections – If a PSPS is necessary, CPAU will inspect the lines in affected areas after extreme weather has passed before power is safely restored.
  • Power Restoration – Power outages could last multiple days depending on weather severity and other factors. Future activities – Rebuilding, replacing, rerouting overhead lines & poles; refining construction practices; improving communication systems; coordinating with other utilities.