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Public Safety Power Shutoff Guidelines

If extreme fire danger conditions threaten a portion of the electric system serving a community, it may be necessary to turn off electricity in the interest of public safety - a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).  Beginning with the 2019 wildfire season, PG&E announced expansion of their PSPS program to include all electric lines (distribution and transmission) that pass through high fire-threat areas.  This is one of the additional precautionary measures being implemented to help reduce the risk of wildfires.

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 California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as “elevated” (Tier 2) or “extreme” (Tier 3) risk for wildfire.

As a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) it is important to familiarize yourself with the Public Safety Power Shutoff and FAQ answers. Contact Quinn Gardner if you have any additional questions!

Frequently Asked Questions

The Public Safety Power Shutoff Plan is a set of guidelines and checklists that the City of San Rafael use to prepare and manage City operations during a power shutdown.

A Red Flag Day is when the National Weather Service issues a warning that there is an elevated risk of wildfire due to weather conditions. Generally, the weather conditions will have high heat over 90’F, humidity less than 20% RH, and wind speeds over 20 mph from the northeasterly direction.

It is expected that each power shutoff will last five to seven days. The total outage time will be the length of the weather event prompting the PSPS and the time it takes PG&E to restore the power. Restoration requires each line be visually inspected during day light hours, so this process could take days.

According to PG&E’s Public Safety Shutoff plan, PG&E will notify affected communities and first responders 48 hours in advance of the power shutoff when possible. When the City of San Rafael receives notification of a planned power shut down event, the City will work with the Marin County Office of Emergency Services to send out an alert through Alert Marin and Nixle. City employees will also receive information updates by email. PG&E has also created a public website with a 7 day forecast of outage potential, based on predicted weather.

The City has multiple areas that fall within the elevated and high threat areas. In addition, areas outside of the high threat zones may be impacted because of the inter-dependency of the power grid. It is possible that shutting down power in Marin or Sonoma counties could impact the City of San Rafael because the main electrical transmission lines come from northern Marin County and Highway 37.

A variety of impact our possible. These include an inability to conduct City business or support planned events. There will also be impacts to access ATM machines, purchase fuel, operate computers, use cell phones, access WIFI networks, or purchase any supplies with a debit of credit card

The loss of power to HVAC units may create untenable environments for individuals with health issues and the elderly. Medical devices including home dialysis machines, oxygen units, ventilators, and wheelchair chargers, may not operate without external power sources.

It is expected that public safety agencies will be overwhelmed with 9-1-1 calls to address emergency medical needs, elevator rescues, and fire and burglar alarm activations. The loss of power to traffic signals will create traffic hazards and congestion throughout the City.

As part of the PSPS plan and depending on the weather conditions, the City may activate its Emergency Operations Center to support life safety and critical infrastructure needs.

All City employees are considered Disaster Service Workers and may be utilized in different capacities or different work schedules to support the needs of the City. For more information about your role as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) visit the Emergency Preparedness and Response page.

City Hall and Public Works have the ability to operate on generator power in the event of a PSPS.

Employees are encouraged to sign up for AlertMarin and Nixle (text your zip code to 888777 for Nixle alerts) and visit the San Rafael Fire Department Emergency Management web page to get more information on disaster preparedness on preparing for extended power outages.

In addition, staff should make sure they and their family are personally prepared. Information on personal preparedness is available through the 1 Hour 2 Get Ready Classes.

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