Utilities Wildfire Safety

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In recent years, wildfires have intensified in California, and utilities are taking action to reduce fire risks related to utility infrastructure. Under threat of wildfire and extreme weather, a utility may shut off power to electric lines in high threat areas to prevent wildfire. This is called a public safety power shutoff, or PSPS. The City of Palo Alto monitors conditions and makes local operational decisions based on the safety and best interests of our community members and our utility’s infrastructure.

Wildfire Mitigation Plan

The City of Palo Alto prepares a Wildfire Mitigation Plan annually, as required by state law.  Updates to the Plan are required each year with a revised Plan mandated every three years. Different from general wildfire prevention plans, this Plan outlines activities by CPAU and other city departments to mitigate the threat of wildfires that specifically could be ignited by electric lines and equipment. Ongoing prevention methods include: increased vegetation management and prioritized maintenance in the Foothills area, electric line inspections, and ongoing staff training. Our past and current Plans are linked below for more information:

2020 Plan and its independent evaluation

2021 Plan update and corresponding staff report

2022 Plan update  

2023 Plan revision – expected July 2023

Palo Alto Wildfire Planning Map

This map is intended to assist you in planning to Get Set and Go. Know ahead of time the various evacuation routes from your property, and if you can’t evacuate, know the location of the nearest safety zone.


When to Evacuate

Leave as soon as evacuation is recommended by fire officials. Don’t wait to be ordered by authorities to leave. In an intense wildfire, they may not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate!

The terms “Voluntary” and “Mandatory” are often used to describe evacuation orders, however, some local jurisdictions may use other terminology such as “Precautionary” and “Immediate Threat.” These terms are used to alert you to the significance of the danger.

Know ahead of time how you're going to evacuate. Understand ALL the routes in and out of your neighborhood. If you can't leave using an evacuation route, know the nearest Safety Zone, an area relatively free from flammable vegetation or materials that provides refuge from a fire. The above planning map can be used to help your plan.

What to Do If You Become Trapped

While in your vehicle

  • Park your vehicle in an area clear of vegetation.
  • Turn off the heater and air conditioner.
  • Close all vehicle windows and air vents.
  • Cover yourself with a wool or cotton blanket or jacket. 
  • Lie on vehicle floor.
  • Call 9-1-1 and give your location.

While on foot

  • Go to an area clear of vegetation, a ditch or depression on level ground if possible.
  • Lie face down and cover up your body.
  • Call 9-1-1 and give your location. 

 While in your home

  • Keep your family together.
  • Call 9-1-1 and give your location. 
  • Fill sinks and tubs with cold water.
  • Keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked. 
  • Stay inside your house. 
  • Stay away from outside walls and windows.
  • Keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked.

Stay Informed and Prepared

Connect with us or review our resources to learn more about utility infrastructure safety, wildfire prevention, emergency preparation and disaster response. We encourage residents and businesses to prepare themselves at the following sites: 

Other Preparedness Tips

  • Have a personal safety plan in place for every member of your household, including pets.
  • Plan for any medical needs, such as medications that need to be refrigerated, or devices that require power.
  • Build or restock your emergency supply kit, including food, water, flashlights, a radio, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
  • If you own a backup generator, ensure it is ready to safely operate.
  • Sign up to receive AlertSCC notifications at alertscc.org
  • In the event of an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
  • For non-emergency public safety issues, call (650) 329-2413.

Potential Power Outages in Palo Alto

CPAU cannot guarantee continuous power for any given length of time if there is a large power outage, so it is important for residents and businesses to be prepared. Large power outages could potentially last for several or more days. Staff are evaluating available resources to supply temporary power to critical facilities in the event of a large power outage.

Prepare for emergencies and power outages through utilizing resources at cityofpaloalto.org/preparedness or contact us to request a copy of our Utilities Safety and Emergency Preparedness brochure. 

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.