ith the weather getting hotter, plentiful dry fuels, and the potential for high winds, Bear Valley Springs has now reached its traditional fire season. In preparation, Southern California Edison (SCE), along with other electric service providers in California, may implement Public Safety Power Shutoffs during extreme fire weather conditions.
What Are Public Safety Power Shutoffs?
Power outages are not a new challenge for the residents of Bear Valley Springs. A pole may be damaged in a traffic collision, a line may be accidentally cut in construction, or some piece of the electric system may be under repair.
Public Safety Power Shutoffs(PSPS) are systematically planned de-energizing of one or more electric transmission lines or circuits to prevent the potential for fire ignition from short circuits. These typically take up to a week to plan and ideally have three notifications to the affected areas, including SCE’s customers. This PSPS program is one part of a solution to reduce fires caused by short circuits. SCE is replacing old wooden poles with composite poles which are less susceptible to rotting,fire, and woodpeckers. Locally, SCE is rebuilding the old circuits and installing covered conductor lines to prevent sparks when tree limbs, animals,or things like metallic balloons come in contact with the wires.
How Do Public Safety Power Shutoffs Work?
SCE has an extensive emergency management team that works to make sure vital steps are taken before the power is shut off. This team keeps a close eye on the weather in their service areas.If the weather outlook for the next four to seven days shows a chance for extreme fire conditions, they will use weather predictive modeling to see what areas are likely to be affected. If at three days ahead of the predicted weather these extreme conditions still exist, they will activate their incident management team.
Two days out
This team will identify the specific circuits and customers that would likely be affected by a PSPS. They coordinate with the jurisdictions, local emergency managers, essential customers (like hospitals), and local professional responders to warn them of the potential need to cut power to their customers.At this time, they will also notify the customers in the impacted areas that there is a potential for their power to be shut off due to these predicted weather conditions.
A day ahead
If the conditions still exist, a second notification to those who may be affected will be sent. Field resources will be dispatched to monitor the weather in real-time, check the area’s fuels (brush, grasses, trees), and other local factors such as terrain. Their findings will be reported back to the incident management team to update their models and further refine the list of impacted customers.
If the extreme fire weather conditions do occur
SCE will provide a third notification to all involved including their customers that the power will be shut off with an approximate time. Power will be restored when the weather conditions reduce to safe levels and when the field resources can inspect the equipment for any damage. When the SCE team receives an ‘all clear’ from the field resources saying it is safe, only then will they re-energize the system. If the weather patterns improve at anytime, the PSPS process will stop.
During erratic or sudden extreme weather conditions, the notification timeline may be condensed.
This system will also affect households with solar power who are tied into the grid in order to prevent their systems from energizing the circuit. In order for your system to provide power it should include a battery storage system and transfer switch.Contact your solar system provider for more information.
What I Need to Do to Prepare for PSPS?
Preparedness measures for a PSPS are not that different from getting prepared for any disaster. These tips will also help for a power outage not related to the PSPS program, such as the planned outages for installing the covered conductor lines.
Sign up for notifications:
The most important preparation is to make sure your contact information is up-to-date with SCE and to sign up for their notifications at https://www.sce.com/mysce/login (My account > profile > outage alert) or by calling SCE customer support at 1-800-655-4555. Since SCE notifies the local governments as well, please be sure to sign up for both CodeRED and ReadyKern
Gather Disaster Supplies
- First Aid Kit
- Bottled Water - 1 gallon per person, per day. Don't forget water for pets!
- Non-perishable foods
- Flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps with fresh batteries
- Battery operated radio
- Coolers/ice chests to store perishables and medications
- Corded phones for landline telephone connections
- Solar powered cell phone charger
- Generator with a heavy-duty extension cord for each major appliance
ToDo Before a PSPS:
- Know where your utilities are and label them with how to shut them off safely
- Know how to open garage doors and gates manually
- Have a pre-designated outdoor location for safely running your generator away from windows to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
- Keep your vehicle gas tank at least half full at all times (gas pumps won't work)
- Have small bill cash available (ATMs and credit card machines won't work)
- Keep cell phones charged
- If a family member uses medical devices that require power, work with the provider on what to do during an outage. This may mean that this person stays with an out-of-area friend.
During a PSPS or Other Power Outage
- Drive carefully - stoplights will not work
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Tie a ribbon around the handles to remind yourself and other family members
- Move perishables to a cooler with ice
- Eat/cook perishable foods within 4 hours
- Only use the barbecue out of doors, and never use it for heating
- Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges
- Check on your neighbors (we are all in this together!)
For more information:
- The PSPS Program: https://www.sce.com/safety/wildfire/psps
- Power Outages: https://www.ready.gov/power-outages
- Wildfire Preparedness: https://www.readyforwildfire.org
This article was provided by the Bear Valley Community Services District’s Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council, who reminds you while disaster preparedness is every person’s responsibility, we are all in this together, and together we are resilient.