South Bay residents should start preparing for a possible widespread electricity blackout that could last up to a week, starting this Wednesday. To find out if you live or work in an area potentially impacted by the outage, click here.
Officials from Santa Clara County and the city of San Jose sent out an email blast Monday warning that PG&E plans to turn off power to reduce the risk of wildfire.
“PG&E has alerted county and city officials about the potential for a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff event impacting 29 counties in Northern California, including approximately 38,000 customer accounts in Santa Clara County,” the notice read.
Earlier this year, Northern California’s largest electric utility provider alerted the public and regulatory authorities that it may implement “public safety power shutoff” scenarios at times of “extreme weather or wildfire conditions,” according to the PG&E website dedicated to public information about the program.
During such a power shutoff, PG&E may turn off electricity for entire communities, cities or even counties in order to reduce the likelihood of live, damaged power lines igniting dry vegetation and sparking large-scale wildfires.
Such power shut offs may occur in areas where high winds and low humidity levels are expected, or where dry vegetation and other heightened risk factors are present, according to the PG&E website prepareforpowerdown.com. Public safety power shut offs may also occur when the National Weather Service has declared a “red flag warning” in a region or community. Regulators identified downed PG&E power lines as the cause of the Camp Fire in November in Paradise, the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.
The city’s email today urges residents to be prepared to go without power for up to seven days. It also advises residents to sign up for PG&E’s phone and email notification system to receive updates on the scheduled outage. To sign up for such alerts, visit m.pge.com. A user must create an account in order to sign up for alerts.
San Jose has created a power vulnerability plan to prepare for and respond to the outages and said it will activate its Emergency Operations Center Tuesday evening.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo recommended that residents who lose power should “shelter in place.” “We do not want you driving on the roads,” he said. “That is because street lights and street signals will not be operational in those areas. For everyone’s safety, we do not want them driving.”
— City of San José (@CityofSanJose) October 7, 2019
Lori Mitchell, the director of San Jose Clean Energy, also warned that clean energy customers could be affected too. “Although many residents are customers of San Jose Clean Energy, they’re also customers of PG&E for distribution services,” Mitchell said. “It’s important to realize that all customers are vulnerable to this.”
San Jose officials are particularly concerned that power will go out in eastern and southern parts of the city. Almaden Valley Councilman Johnny Khamis said his office has been reaching out to residents across social media and knocking on doors to warn them about the power shut off. He told San Jose Inside that he’s particularly concerned about elderly residents in his district who may need electricity to power certain medical devices.
“I have a lot of seniors that live in my community,” he said in an interview Monday evening. “A lot of them are [by] themselves and they don't tell other people about their medical needs. I’m hoping that the neighbors will get together and talk. Let’s use this as a preparation for something bigger.”
In addition, PG&E will open a community resource center on Wednesday at Avaya Stadium, 1145 Coleman Ave. The center will be open from 8am to 6pm for the duration of the power outage and provide customers with information, water, charging stations, and air conditioning. For local updates, follow @CityofSanJose, @SCC_OES and @PGE4Me on Twitter or visit www.sanjoseca.gov and www.pge.com/psps.
The city’s email also directed residents to PG&E’s website dedicated to the Public Safety Power Shutdown program. This site offers advice to the public on how to prepare for a large-scale outage. Such as:
• Create a safety plan for all members of your family, including pets;
• Determine if your landline will work during an outage. Keep a mobile phone as backup;
• Keep mobile phones and other devices charged;
• If you have a generator, make sure it’s ready to operate safely;
• Have flashlights available for your household. Avoid using candles;
• Have a battery-powered or crank radio;
• Stock up on the right batteries for items you rely on. Include two extra sets;
• Keep cash on hand and a full tank of gas;
• Learn how to manually open your garage or any other door operating with electricity;
• Talk with your building manager if you live or work in a building with elevators or electronic card access to understand how they will deal with a possible multi-day outage.
During an outage, PG&E also advises customers to turn off appliances to avoid damage caused by a possible surge when power is restored; consider using coolers with ice to keep food cold and safe; use generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills outdoors only; check on your neighbors.