In recent years, wildfires have intensified in California, and utilities across the state are taking action to reduce the risk of fire that could be caused through impact with utility infrastructure. Certain conditions such as high wind, low humidity, dry vegetation, and Red Flag Warnings declared by the National Weather Service can pose an increased risk of wildfire when paired with extreme weather events. Make sure you know what to do in the case of a wildfire and stay prepared by learning more here.
PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Program
People in the Bay Area have undoubtedly heard about PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shut-off program, in which the company plans to de-energize its power lines when weather and fuel conditions heighten the fire risk. You can find information on the PG&E website. While PG&E does not directly serve electricity to Palo Alto utility customers, the City intakes electricity from PG&E’s transmission system. Although it it unlikely, if the City of Palo Alto becomes affected by a PG&E power shutoff, it is important to be prepared.
Staff are coordinating with PG&E and partner agencies such as the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) to understand the impacts to publicly owned utilities that are transmission-dependent on PG&E infrastructure.
Reliability of Palo Alto Utilities Electric Sources
Palo Alto has its own electric generation sources, but is also part of the interconnected grid across California. If one of our electric generating sources is shut off due to wildfire issues, we are still able to source power from other generators without interruption of service. Therefore we do not anticipate widespread outages in Palo Alto if PG&E shuts down power on its transmission line. That scenario would be unlikely unless there is a very large regional incident in which the entire electric transmission system across the region or state was in crisis and it became necessary for all utilities to curtail electric usage.
Local Wildfire Conditions and City Actions
The Foothills areas might be at the greatest risk of wildfire in Palo Alto, and we are monitoring conditions very closely. If PG&E makes a decision to shut off its power lines west of highway 280, we may need to shut off power locally to customers in the Foothills. The City will coordinate to make local operational decisions based on the safety and best interests of our community members and our utility’s infrastructure.
Wildfire Mitigation Plan
The City is already implementing measures related to electric system operation and vegetation management to reduce the risk of fires caused by overhead electric lines. The Utilities Department (CPAU) is also leading the development of a Utilities Wildfire Mitigation Plan that outlines the processes and activities undertaken by CPAU and other city departments to mitigate the threat of wildfires associated with overhead electric lines and associated equipment owned and operated by CPAU. This Plan will be presented to City Council for approval by the end of 2019.
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 cityofpaloalto.org/preparedness and cityofpaloalto.org/safeutility It is also a wise idea to check our cityofpaloalto.org/stayinformed webpage to ensure you are signed up to receive emergency notifications from the City during any potential emergency situations.
In the event of an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
For non-emergency public safety issues, call (650) 329-2413.
Contact Utilities at UtilitiesCommunications@cityofpaloalto.org or (650) 329-2417.