County of Marin - News Releases - Public Safety Power Shutdown

For Immediate Release
August 01, 2019

Possibility of PG&E Power Shutoff Prompts Extra Precaution

County to share initial plans while urging individual preparedness

San Rafael, CA – With the threat of wildfire now the “new normal” nearly year-round, local governments are reevaluating how best to provide the most essential services when the state’s utility companies choose to turn off power under threatening conditions.

A man and a woman go through a plastic bin full of emergency suppliesIn preparation for a Public Safety Power Shutoff, residents are encouraged to gather supplies that will help them live without electricity for a while (FEMA archive photo).

The County is urging residents to make their own efforts to prepare for a potential PSPS event, preparations which also apply to a wildfire, earthquake or other disaster. Many preparedness resources are available online at: Ready.gov; ReadyMarin.org; and FEMA’s Preparing Makes Sense for People with Disabilities. The County’s Department of Health and Human Services also has advice on its website.

At 9 a.m. August 6, the Marin County Board of Supervisors will hear an update from the County Administrator’s Office and Marin County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services concerning plans to prepare, respond and recover from planned shutoff events like Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E’s) Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Program.

To reduce the risk of wildfires, PG&E and California’s other electricity providers are implementing the preemptive power shutoff. A PSPS event is triggered when extreme fire danger conditions threaten a portion of power lines running through high-threat wildfire areas. Most of Marin County is in elevated (Tier 2) or extreme (Tier 3) wildfire threat zones according to maps from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Factors that could prompt PG&E to shut off power include a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning, low humidity levels, dry vegetation conditions, forecasts of sustained winds of 25 mph or gusts above 45 mph, and real-time observations of conditions from field crews.

With the looming potential for a shutoff, the County is developing an annex to its Emergency Operations Plan in coordination with cities, towns and other area partners that focuses on potential impacts, notifications, public education and coordinating public safety response.

“We hope residents understand that first responders will also be impacted by a shutoff and will have to prioritize response to the most at-risk populations, including those with access and functional needs such as seniors and people with disabilities,” said Tom Jordan, Emergency Services Coordinator with the Sheriff’s Office.

PG&E indicates that it plans to issue notice of a shutoff about 48 hours before power is turned off, again 24 hours before power is turned off, then finally just prior to shut off. Here are some of the ways residents can start preparations:

  • ensure you have a plan for your home or your business;
  • have a full tank of gas in your vehicle, some cash, and water; and
  • sign up for alerts at PGE.com, AlertMarin.org and Nixle.com.

In addition, County officials are evaluating how a PSPS event might affect  County services to residents and are working with preparedness experts from Kelle Kroll Group to develop a business continuity plan. “With County government being as impacted by power loss as residents and businesses, the County’s focus will need to be on public safety and those most at-risk,” said Assistant County Administrator Daniel Eilerman.

A business continuity plan details how a government will continue its minimum essential functions in the event of a disaster – or any event that disrupts normal operations. “We’re focusing initially on PG&E’s PSPS program as a prime example of why we need one,” Eilerman said. “However, a business continuity plan is applicable to any disaster, emergency or disruption of services.”

The status report will take place at 9 a.m. in the Marin County Civic Center Board chamber, Suite 330, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael. Residents will be able to attend, watch the webcast live or archived, or tune in on Channel 27 for Comcast and AT&T U-Verse subscribers.

All public meetings and events sponsored or conducted by the County of Marin are held at accessible sites. If you are a person with a disability and require information or materials in alternative formats – or if you require accommodation to participate in a county program, service or activity – please contact department staff by email or at 415-473-7331 or 415-473-4381 (voice/TTY).

Contact:

Thomas Jordan
Program Coordinator
Marin County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services

Emergency Operations Facility
1600 Los Gamos Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6584
Email: Thomas Jordan
Sheriff-Coroner website