PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Events – Lessons Learned


As we reflect on the fire season of 2019, it’s clear that the public safety power shutoff events only made it that much more important to prepare for next year. The preventative shutoff events dramatically extend the impact of fire season across a much larger population – hitting urban and suburban populations far from actual fires or expected fire risks.

What Happened

Three primary shutoff events took place – one beginning October 9th affected approximately 800,000 customers, leaving a large portion without power for more than 3 days. The second shutoff took place on October 27th, affecting approximately 1 million PG&E customers. Again, a significant portion remained without power for more than 3 days. In addition to these large-scale shutoff events, a third shutoff took place impacting almost 180,000 customers.

Homes and businesses were without power, causing harm due to spoiled food, lost business, lost wages, and more. Additionally, at least one person is reported to have died due to the outage – a man dependent upon oxygen to breathe.

How to Prepare Your Business

  • Make sure PG&E has your proper contact information so you get notified about a planned outage. Visit this link to confirm.
  • If you have a stationary generator, make sure it is sufficient. Even if it doesn’t have many hours on it, it could be too old to be worth repairing or maintaining.
  • Update or prepare a written plan for when an outage occurs.
  • Have your backup generator serviced
  • Arrange for rental generators in advance

Follow this link, for more detailed recommendations about preparing for a power outage. We’re not out of the woods yet in 2019. To protect your business NOW, review the list above and take as much action as you can.

Start Getting Ready for Next Year NOW

Some things can’t happen overnight. If you want to be in a better position to weather next year’s likely outages, you’ll need to get in motion. The process of getting a generator in place for NEXT year should start now, given lead times, permits, etc. PLUS, contractors will get busy next summer — get your generator ordered now and installed in the spring, before resources get stretched.

Even if you plan to rent a portable generator next fall, vs. purchase and install a standby generator, there are things you can do to prepare as well as make it easy to set up and power up that generator later.

1) Install a generator docking station. Setting up this piece of equipment in advance will make connecting and disconnecting a generator in the future much easier.

2) Install an automatic transfer switch (ATS). Consider doing this if a) it is critical that your facility quickly and automatically shift to your rental generator’s power when there is an outage, or b) if you are planning to purchase a standby generator, but you don’t anticipate having it in place before next fall.

As we mention above, if you already have a standby generator for your facility, be sure to have it serviced and tested regularly – taking care to have it running in top condition before next year’s fire (and PSPS) season is upon us.

Take the lessons from this year’s experience to heart. Develop a plan. Get started soon. Expect multiple shutoff events. To get ready for next year, contact us to help create your facility’s backup power plan.

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