Preparing for Extended Power Outages

Being prepared for power outages is an important part of your emergency plan .  During wildfire season, Sonoma residents need to be prepared for the possibility of extended power outages related to Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) efforts to reduce wildfire risks.  Having key items such as an emergency kit is one component of a preparedness plan and can make it easier to cope with power outages. But residents also need to prepare and plan to evacuate or to shelter-in-place.  Visit socoemergency.org/prepare for resources to prepare yourself, your family & friends, and your neighborhood for prolonged power outages.

If you are Sonoma resident with a disability or access and functional needs (AFN), be sure to review FEMA’s guide on "Preparing Makes Sense For People With Disabilities, Others with Access and Functional Needs and the Whole Community".  In addition, the Ready.gov website includes preparedness resources specific for individuals with access and functional needs.

Preparing for Extended Power Outages in Sonoma County

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What is a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS)?

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is expanding its Community Wildfire Safety Program. This includes proactively turning off electric power for safety (Public Safety Power Shutoff) when extreme fire danger conditions are forecasted, to help reduce the likelihood of an ignition.  Learn more about Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) at prepareforpowerdown.com.

When and where will PG&E activate the PSPS? For how long?

A combination of criteria are used by PG&E in activating a Public Safety Power Shutoff, which may include a Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service, low humidity levels, forecasted sustained winds, conditions of dry fuel, and on-the-ground real-time information. The most likely electric lines to be considered for shutting off for safety will be those that pass through areas that have been designated by the CPUC as at elevated (Tier 2) or extreme (Tier 3) risk for wildfire. However, although a customer may not live or work in a high fire-threat area, their power may be shut off if their community relies upon a line that runs through an area experiencing extreme fire danger conditions.

Sonoma County residents need to prepare for at least 5 days without electricity.

What should I do to prepare for a power outage?

Ask yourself these 4 questions:

1.  How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?  When possible, PG&E will notify customers of a possible Public Safety Power Shutoff.  Register for PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Shutoff Alerts so PG&E can contact you when the power needs to be shut off for safety.  Also, register for emergency alerts at both SoCo Alerts and Nixle to receive notifications about other emergencies that may affect your safety  Learn more about Sonoma County’s Emergency Alert and Warning Tools.

2.  What is my shelter plan?  Collect items you’ll need to evacuate and prepare to shelter-in-place for at least 5 days using SoCo Emergency’s Build a Kit page.

3.  What is my evacuation plan?  If you need Electricity and Battery-Dependent Assistive Technology and Medical Devices, especially life support equipment (e.g., ventilators, apnea monitors, dialysis machines), you should consider staying with friends or family during a prolonged power outage.

4.  What is my family/household communication plan?  Build a support team of people who will help you in an emergency if necessary.  The real first responders in an emergency are often your neighbors, friends and co-workers.  If you complete your Family Emergency Communication Plan online at ready.gov/make-a-plan, you can print it onto a wallet-sized card and share with your support team.

Visit the SoCo Emergency Power Outage page for additional information and lists of things you can do ahead of time to get ready for the potential loss of power, if PG&E is planning to turn off your electricity within the next 48 hours, and/or if your power is already out.

What if I need Electricity and Battery-Dependent Assistive Technology and Medical Devices?

  1. Update your contact information with PG&E at pge.com/mywildfirealerts or call 1-866-743-6589.
  2. Follow FEMA’s recommendations in its Power Outage Information Sheet
  3. Review and update the American with Disabilities Act’s Emergency Power Planning Checklist every 6 months

Generator and Backup Power

Some Sonoma residents may own or be interested in purchasing generators, portable power stations or battery technologies to prepare for loss of power.  Make sure use of a generator is appropriate, safe and realistic for where you live.  Incorrect generator use can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning or dangerous electrical hazards. The installation of devices or wiring designed to allow for a direct connection from a generator to a building’s electrical system, such as manual or automatic transfer switch, breaker interlock kit or similar device, should be installed by a qualified electrical contractor and the installation requires a permit and inspection from the City Building Department.  PG&E has developed resources to assist those considering these options:

PG&E’s Backup Generation Options 
Backup Generator Fact Sheet
Is a Generator the Right Choice?
PG&E Marketplace

It is critical that any residents considering a generator take appropriate safety precautions.  These resources were developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Generator Safety Flyer (English)
Generator Safety Flyer (Spanish)
Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheets (Many Languages)
You Can Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure (English)
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (Spanish)

Additional Resources

BC Association for Individualized Technology and Supports for People with Disabilities (BCITS). Self-Help Guide • Back-up Power for Ventilators.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Power Outages.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare coverage in disasters and emergencies.

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