Public Safety Power Shutoff

If extreme fire danger conditions threaten a portion of the electric system serving a community, it may be necessary to turn off electricity in the interest of public safety - a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).  Beginning with the 2019 wildfire season, PG&E announced expansion of their PSPS program to include all electric lines (distribution and transmission) that pass through high fire-threat areas.  This is one of the additional precautionary measures being implemented to help reduce the risk of wildfires.

The most likely electric lines to be considered for shutting off for safety will be those that pass through areas that have been designated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as “elevated” (Tier 2) or “extreme” (Tier 3) risk for wildfire.

What will happen during a PSPS?

Marin Transit: If Traffic lights are affected, then Marin Transit services may be delayed.  Most of Marin Transit vehicles are either fueled at the County or at Golden Gate Transit’s yard. These fuel pumps have generators in the event of electrical outages.  Marin Transit currently has two electric buses at this time, and would be able to use spare buses in their stead.

The City of San Rafael Public Works facility has a back-up generator, fuel tanks on site. In the event of a PSPS, Public Works would be responsible for ensuring adequate fuel supplies for emergency vehicles and City back-up generators.

The City has been in touch with cell phone companies and understand that they are actively working on their contingency plans to assist consumers in the event of a potential power shutdown by PG&E. This is a statewide issue and as soon as the City hears back from them, we will share the information with residents.

Battery back-up units will be utilized at all intersections along major arterials and major collectors, that is about 50% of our traffic signals. The remainder of the intersections will be left dark. By the California Vehicle Code, an intersection in dark mode is a legal four way stop with or without stop signs. Please be patient, courteous, and aware on the road at all times – we’re all in this together.

The City’s sewage system will continue functioning, Central Marin Sanitary Agency (CMSA) has the ability to extend the sewage system function with the use of existing co-generation engine and holding tanks for the primary treated effluent at their plant. Residents would be asked to limit use of the sewage system by doing things like not flushing toilets as frequently to reduce the use of water.

To improve Marin Municipal Water District‘s readiness to respond to a PSPS, MMWD’s Board of Directors approved funding for portable generators that can be utilized at strategic sites to ensure MMWD is able to deliver water to their customers. MMWD uses pump stations powered by electricity to fill their water storage tanks. Should a PSPS event occur, MMWD staff will move the portable generators throughout the service area to power MMWD pump stations. While logistically challenging, the deployment of portable generators will allow for continued water service to District customers.

In order to best manage this new scenario, when a PG&E PSPS event occurs anywhere in MMWD’s service area, we are asking that all customers turn off their irrigation system and restrict water use to indoors only for the duration of the PSPS. Reducing the demand on the system will serve two important purposes: It will ensure more water is available for firefighting if needed, and it will assist the District with their efforts to strategically deploy the portable generators. Your help is greatly appreciated!

What You Can Do

  1. It is anticipated that many backyard barbecue’s will be in use during a power outage. Please exercise extreme caution during these times of elevated fire risk and keep safety in mind when setting up, using and cleaning your BBQ grill. Unattended cooking remains the number one cause of fires and fire related injuries in San Rafael and throughout Marin County. This includes both inside and outside cooking: Please Watch What You Heat!
  2. Please NEVER use a grill indoors including garages, overhangs and canopies.
  3. Grills are not permitted on balconies of apartments and condominium apartments within 10’ of combustible construction. Do not operate a grill right next to your home or other combustible material.
  4. Keep a fire extinguisher, garden hose or bucket of sand nearby to douse a grill fire that gets out of control.
  5. Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  6. The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  7. Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  8. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  9. Never leave your grill unattended.

Charcoal grills:

  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container add water before disposal. Keep ash container off of your wood deck and away from your house. We have experienced many fires due to improper disposal of hot ashes and briquettes.

Propane grills

  • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.

Tips for the use of portable, gas-powered emergency generator equipment:

  1. Store flammable liquids only in D.O.T. and OSHA approved safety containers, in a well-ventilated environment and not in any space that contains gas appliances such as water heaters and furnaces, or any device that creates a spark.
  2. Approved safety containers can be 5 gallons maximum for a maximum storage of 10 gallons total. Any greater amount requires that the approved containers be stored in an approved flammable liquid storage cabinet. With an approved cabinet, a maximum of 60 gallons can be stored.
  3. Never add fuel to a running or hot emergency generator. Shut the generator down and let it cool for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  4. Keep generators dry to avoid the risk of electrocution.
  5. Position the generator on a clean, dry, non-combustible flat surface.
  6. Only use emergency generators outdoors a minimum of 15 feet from structures. Ensure any building openings such as windows and doors are not downwind from the generator.
  7. Ensure that all power cords are heavy duty and have no damage or exposed wiring.
  8. Ensure you have working battery operated smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector properly located in the residence. If detection equipment is electric, ensure each device has battery backup.
  9. Turn the generator off at night. Foods in the refrigerator and freezer will remain safe as long as doors are not opened.
  10. Ensure there is a working fire extinguisher nearby with a 2A 20BC rating.
  1. Never leave open flames, including candles, unattended
  2. Assure you have working smoke alarms in your home
  3. Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets
  4. Do not burn candles on or near combustible materials

Open outdoor burning is prohibited during Red Flag warnings and extreme fire weather conditions

One of the key calls to action is for PG&E customers to update their contact information at their earliest convenience to help PG&E notify them in the event of a possible PSPS:

  • Update contact info with PG&E online or by calling 1-866-743-6589 during normal business hours to receive alerts directly from PG&E through automated calls, texts and emails, when and where possible, prior to a PSPS.PG&E accountholders can give permission to family members or friends who want to be notified of a PSPS activation to add another person’s phone number to an account to be contacted to ensure they can help with their notification or emergency planning in the event of a PSPS.
  • Follow @PGE4ME on TwitterSign up for text messages/emails to receive updates on specific PG&E outages

  • PG&E customers dependent on life-support equipment (including CPAP machines) and/or require special heating or cooling needs for certain medical conditions should sign up for PG&E’s Medical Baseline Program, which provides additional energy at the lowest price for customers and ensure the special medical needs of these customers are addressed during a PSPS.
  • Check PG&E’s open house schedule for upcoming open house opportunities.
  • Visit pge.com for additional information on creating an emergency kit, checklist and to obtain outage information – searches can be done by address/area to see if there are any outages, the reason for the outages & when power is expected to be restored.
  • Develop your own plan using the aforementioned resources:

    • Build or restock emergency supply kits with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
    • If you have children, make sure any clothing set aside for an emergency still fits them.
    • Check the expiration dates on medicine and emergency food items.
    • Establish an emergency meeting location.
    • Know how to manually open garage doors and automatic gates.
    • Keep vehicles fueled up.
    • Keep cell phones and/or other electronics charged.
    • Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep a hard copy of emergency numbers on hand.
    • Plan for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power.
  • Know how to turn off your main electricity switch at the time of the PSPS, so when power comes back on the surge won’t ruin appliances.
  • If considering using a back-up generator, visit PGE.com/generator for information and helpful guides on sizing and safety tips to consider.
  • Marketplace.pge.com is another resource with links and connections to vendors who provide generators and other resources.
  • Use a qualified electrician to install generators to ensure that it is appropriately ventilated, safely connected to the grid and will disconnect from the grid – this is very important for the safety of PG&E field personnel who are working on the lines if generators are operating and not disconnected from the grid.
  • If you have a standby emergency generator, make sure it is working and has fuel.
  • Email PG&E with any outstanding PSPS questions: wildfiresafety@pge.com
  • Text your zip code to 888777 to receive Nixle alerts from your local agencies
  • Setting aside one gallon of drinking water per person, per day.
  • Non-perishable food that is easy to prepare without power.
  • Non-electric can opener, along with forks, spoons, and knives.
  • Adequate baby and pet food if a household has either or both.
  • Flashlights (Do not use candles.)
  • At least two extra sets of batteries.
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank weather radio.
  • A mobile phone with a portable charger.
  • Basic first aid kits, prescriptions and non-prescription medicine.
  • Toiletries, blankets, and clothing.
  • Activities for children.
  • Cash and credit cards (If possible, put aside at least $100 in cash.)
  • Important documents and other useful items such as paper towels and trash bags.
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