If you’re worried about planned electrical shutdowns being done in times of great fire danger, the electric company now has an app for that.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company spokesman Mark Messen said in a news release that the company “continues to improve vital safety communications for customers that will be used before turning off power to prevent wildfires during severe weather, the company has enhanced its notifications to provide more detail about when power is expected to go out, when it may be restored and where customers can go to find additional information.”
PG&E, responding to customer concerns over getting information as soon as possible when so-called “Public Safety Power Shutoff” or PSPS events are planned, has instituted a new “Watch and Warning” program “to ensure they have time to prepare and plan in advance” for a PSPS.
“Whenever possible,” Messen said, “an initial ‘Watch’ notification will be sent two days in advance of a potential PSPS event, followed by an additional Watch notification one day before the potential PSPS event, notifying customers of the possibility of a PSPS event in their area based on forecasted conditions.”
Conditions likely to trigger a Watch notification include heat waves and high winds, both of which can cause damage to high voltage power lines, and have often been blamed for some of the most destructive wildfires in State history, including the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed over 80 people.
If the weather persists and a PSPS is called, PG&E will issue a “Warning” that “it is going to happen soon.”
“Whenever possible,” Messen said, “Warning notifications will be sent approximately 4 to 12-hours in advance of the power being shutoff.”
The Watch and Warnings will be tied to the weather. “Both Watch and Warning notifications are directly tied to weather forecasts,” Messen said, “which can change rapidly. For example, predicting the time and area of landfall for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Southeast United States.”
This new system is better than what was done prior. “As an example of how notifications have been improved for 2020,” Messen said, “customers will see an estimated time when their power will be restored two days before it goes out. Last year, that estimated time of restoration wasn’t provided until the power had been turned off.”
The Watch and Warnings will be issued via automated calls, texts and emails, providing essential information, including:
• Your address so you know you’re getting the accurate information for your home;
• The date and time when power is estimated to be shut off. (For example, between 6 and 10 p.m. on Oct. 7.); and,
• The estimated date and time when they expect power will be restored.
“When power is turned off, PG&E will provide updates to customers at least once a day until power is restored,” Messen said. “Power will remain off until the weather has passed, and equipment has been inspected.”
The company is also working to reduce the length of time the power is off, with the goal of cutting the time in half, “So that power is restored to the majority of customers within 12 daylight hours after severe weather has passed. PG&E will send a final notification once power has been restored.”
Readers should make sure their contact information is up to date by going to the PG&E website, see: www.pge.com/mywildfirealerts or call 1-800-742-5000, where in-language support is available. The system is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Russian, Vietnamese and Korean.
Six additional languages will be available soon including Farsi, Arabic, Hmong, Khmer, Punjabi and Japanese. Customers choose their language of preference on the website and the warnings will be sent in that language.
PG&E also has posted an online Safety Action Center to help people prepare for a PSPS, see: www.safetyactioncenter.pge.com and use the “Make Your Own Emergency Plan” link.