How to Prepare for a Public Safety Power Shutoff

You probably know that hurricanes, tornadoes, and other dangerous weather conditions can cause power outages. You probably already have your hurricane preparedness supplies ready. But did you know that companies and government agencies can also schedule power outages?

That’s right—companies and government agencies can often shut down power to allow PG&E or Edison crews to repair the electrical grid for fire prevention, storm preparation, or extreme weather conditions. In terms of the latter, shutting off power can help prevent and minimize wildfire risk during wildfire season.

Fortunately, an extreme public safety power shutoff doesn’t mean you have to be left in the dark. Preparing for a public safety power shutoff allows you to remain in control even when the lights go out. This article will discuss emergency preparedness tips and recommend an emergency plan during a PSPS event.

Step 1: Understand Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPSs)
Although public safety power shut offs sound extreme, they’re not as uncommon as you might think. By shutting off power, companies can prevent wildfires and other disasters caused by downed power lines.

Let’s explore a few key characteristics of these procedures.

Reasons for a PSPS event
Companies and government agencies typically shut down power grids for the following reasons:

● Extreme inclement weather – Most electrical grids can withstand moderate weather impacts. However, some severe weather can be so powerful that utilities companies can’t operate their electrical grids safely. This is when knowing how to use a generator during a power outage comes in play. To determine if inclement weather will threaten the power grid, companies usually look at the following:

○ Wind speed
○ Temperature
○ Humidity
○ The dryness of trees and shrubs

● Maintenance – Companies may also shut off power as part of scheduled repairs. While this is a less common reason for public safety power shutoffs, it’s nevertheless important. Regularly maintaining and updating the power grid can result in safer, more eco-friendly, and more cost-effective electricity.

Timeline of a PSPS
While the specifics of a PSPS event can vary based on the company or agency overseeing the electrical grid, many power shut offs follow similar timelines:

1. Weather agencies notify the power company – Weather forecasters initially notify the power company of extreme weather. This notification usually arrives a week in advance of the storm. The electrical company may work with a weather team to determine the exact day to shut down the grid.

2. The power company alerts customers to the shutoff – The electrical company typically alerts customers 48 hours in advance that a shutoff may occur. This notification may let customers know the shutoff’s estimated duration and affected areas. This stage is also known as the PSPS watch stage.

3. The power company warns customers of the shutoff – A PSPS warning differs from a watch in that the latter simply notifies customers that their area may be affected. A warning lets customers know that a shutoff will definitely impact their area. Companies typically issue these notifications 24 hours in advance.

4. The power company cuts the power – During this stage, the power is completely shut off. Severe weather usually impacts the area during this time. Having a storm preparedness plan in place and a reliable backup generator to use during this time is key.

5. The power company inspects and repairs the power grid – After the storm passes, the power company’s electricians inspect the power grid and repair any damages. Depending on the damages, this step could take a day or more.

6. The power company restores power – Once electricians repair the power grid, the power company restores power to the affected areas.

Step 2: Sign Up for Notifications and Alerts
Many power and utilities companies already enroll their customers in their notification systems. However, if your power company doesn’t take this step, you may have to enroll in their system. Once you’re in their system, you’ll likely be able to receive alerts via:

● Phone call
● Text message
● Email

You should also ask about your power company’s social media presence. Many companies use their social media accounts to:

● Post notifications and ongoing updates about power shut offs
● Remind customers about shutoff warnings and watches
● Describe the PSPS outage timeline
● Regularly update customers

Some power companies even send more notifications to their most vulnerable customers. These customers typically include the elderly and customers with health conditions. Additional notifications may include:

● Extra phone calls and texts
● Doorbell rings
● Personal visits

Step 3: Prepare Your Alternative Light Sources
The good news is that you typically know what to expect when it comes to a PSPS: a power outage. As a result, you can focus most of your attention on preparing your alternative light sources. Let’s look at two important sources of light and power during a PSPS outage.

Portable Generators
A portable generator is one of the best ways to prepare for any power outage—especially a PSPS. That’s because a portable generator can deliver the electricity you need to keep your appliances turned on and your home brightly lit. You may also require a inverter generator for sensitive medical devices.

To understand a portable generator’s incredible benefits, it’s helpful to know a few key terms:

● Wattage – Wattage measures the total amount of electricity a generator can generate. In general, the higher the wattage, the more electricity a generator can deliver. If you want to keep most of your major appliances and devices running, you’ll likely need a generator capable of producing at least 9,000 watts.

● Fuel source – Portable generators typically run on one or more fuel sources: gasoline, natural gas, or propane. A dual-fuel portable generator is a generator capable of running on two fuel sources. A tri-fuel generator can run on all three fuel sources. Multi-fuel generators can provide extra convenience.

Given the convenience and flexibility of tri-fuel portable generators, it may be best to purchase one well before a PSPS. That way, you can rest easy knowing you’re not limited to just one fuel source.

Regardless of its fuel source, a portable generator can help you power up your home during a PSPS.

Flashlights
If you’ve ever been camping, you know the power a fantastic flashlight can provide. They can be even more powerful during a PSPS. Here are two of the most common flashlights used during power outages:

● Incandescent bulb flashlights – Incandescent bulb flashlights are the most common flashlights in most people’s homes. These flashlights are usually inexpensive and run on D batteries.

● LED flashlights – LED flashlights tend to last longer than incandescent bulb flashlights. They also emit less heat. As a result, LED flashlights are popular choices when it comes to power outages.

You might also consider headlamps and lanterns in addition to these types of flashlights. Finally, be sure to stock up on batteries. A dead flashlight is a useless flashlight.

Step 4: Prepare Your Home
A PSPS is typically very short. In most cases, these events rarely last longer than a day. That said, power outages for any amount of time can impact you and your home. As a result, you can make a PSPS much easier by accomplishing home tasks before the event.

Here are several important home preparation tasks:

● Unplug devices and appliances before power is restored – Although a portable generator can help you keep the lights on, you’ll want to unplug your devices before power is restored. That’s because power restorations can sometimes cause a power surge. This surge can damage electronics.

● Turn your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest possible settings – Turning your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest possible settings can help your food stay fresh during the outage. However, you should do this only hours before the outage. You don’t want your food frozen for several days.

● Make or buy ice ahead of time – Even if you’ve turned down your refrigerator, you still may need to keep food and medicine on ice. As a result, it’s always a good idea to make or buy ice ahead of the power outage. That way, you can easily fill your coolers.

● Stock up on non-perishable food – Non-perishable food doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Consequently, this food group is ideal for a PSPS. Non-perishable foods include canned goods, meals-ready-to-eat, and dried fruits and nuts.

● Have a backup home key – Having a backup home key is a smart move regardless of the situation, but it can be even more important if you have electronic locks. A PSPS can disrupt electronic security features.

● Let your family, friends, and neighbors know about the outage – If you have a portable generator, you may be able to call those closest to you at any time to let them know about the situation. However, if you don’t have a generator, you may have to call people before the outage. It’s important to let your nearest and dearest know that they may not be able to contact you until the company restores power.

Step 5: Keep Contact Information Close By
You’ll need to write down important contact information before the PSPS. That’s because a PSPS, like all power outages, can render electronic devices that store contact information useless—at least until your portable generator gets up to speed.

As a result, it’s helpful to write down the following contact information:

● Your friends and family
● Your neighbors
● The power company
● Emergency services

Jotting down the power company’s information can be particularly helpful. You may be able to call them for updates. More importantly, you may have to call them if problems arise during the power restoration process.

Prepare for a Public Safety Power Shutoff with DuroMax
A PSPS can help prevent extreme fire danger conditions and other disasters should inclement weather threaten the power grid. However, a PSPS will result in a power outage. Luckily, you can prepare for the power outage with DuroMax.

Our portable generator can help keep your lights on and devices charged until the power company restores your power. That way, you can remain comfortable in your home during an extreme public safety power shutoff.

When the lights turn off, DuroMax turns on.