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By Kim Harris
Managing Editor 

Power off for wildfire safety


Last updated 10/10/2019 at 6:44am

The California Public Utilities Commission map shows fire danger areas of elevated and extreme risk.

San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and other power companies throughout California will be shutting down power to fire-prone areas when there are potentially dangerous weather conditions, the utility groups recently announced.

"Changing weather conditions are putting our region at increased risk for wildfires. Although we've made great efforts to protect our communities, there are still times during extreme weather when we may shut off power for public safety," SDG&E said in a recent statement. "If there's a fire, sometimes fire officials or other agencies will also ask us to cut power to keep the community and/or their crews safe. A number of critical factors are taken into consideration before this decision is made. Whatever the circumstances, we'll make every effort to communicate with you in advance. Please know that turning off power in the interest of safety isn't a decision we take lightly. It's a last resort during extreme situations.

Fire danger areas at either elevated or extreme risk include the Fallbrook and Bonsall areas in North San Diego County and much of western Riverside County, according to a California Public Utilities Commission map available online at

How PSPS events work

Each utility determines when a PSPS is called and how it will be implemented, but when forecasts indicated elevated weather conditions such as high winds, high temperatures and dry vegetation, utility companies will assess the potential impact to affected areas, customers can expect a power shut-off, SDG&E explained.

If weather conditions warrant a possible public safety power shut-off, those affected would be notified twice before the actual shut-off occurs. The first notification would come two days before the shut-off with a second notification coming the day before the shut-off. If weather conditions persist, affected customers would be notified a third time, the day of the shut-off.

It is important to note that erratic or sudden onset of conditions can impact whether or not those notifications would be issued.

PSPS events are temporary and are meant to keep residents and the community safe.

What are the conditions for a PSPS?

Elevated weather conditions can cause vegetation or other items to be blown into power lines possibly creating a wildfire.

SDG&E said they consider a number of factors and conditions before declaring a PSPS including high winds to include red flag warnings issued by the National Weather Service, low humidity, dry vegetation that could serve as fuel, on the ground observations, fire threat to electric infrastructure and the public safety risk.

How to prepare for a PSPS

It is important to prepare an emergency plan in advance in the event your family is affected by a power shut-off or any other emergency.

Those potentially affected should have a personal safety plan in place for every member of their household, including pets and should include what to do for any medical needs, such as medications that need to be refrigerated or devices that require power.

Build or restock an emergency supply kit, including food, water, flashlights, a radio, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash. Those potentially affected should also identify backup charging methods for phones, learn how to manually open the garage door and ensure any backup generators are ready to safely operate.

For more information on preparing for public safety power shutdown, visit

According to Southern California Edison, while it is difficult to predict how often elevated weather conditions may occur, the threat of wildfires in California is real and growing. Californians need to be prepared with a plan and have an emergency kit. SDG&E customers can find helpful safety tips at

Kim Harris can be reached by email at [email protected]


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