What to Know for a Public Safety Power Shutoff

Northeast Berkeley, the core UC Berkeley campus and Berkeley Lab are currently impacted by the PSPS event. Source: Pacific Gas & Electricity.

Northeast Berkeley, the core UC Berkeley campus and Berkeley Lab are currently impacted by the PSPS event. Source: Pacific Gas & Electricity.

Final Update: October 10, 7:40PM

Essential Information:

  • PG&E had shut down power to approximately 3,500 customers in the Berkeley Hills, including UC Berkeley beginning yesterday at 11pm, Wednesday, October 9th.

  • As of 7:30pm, almost all Berkeley residents who were impacted have had their power restored. PG&E continues to restore power throughout the Bay Area and Northern California throughout the night.

  • UC Berkeley classes have been canceled on Friday. Some Residence Halls may lose power. Visit their news site for additional information.

  • All BUSD schools remain open. Visit their website for additional information.

  • There are no public transit impacts, and all roads and tunnels are open. Treat traffic signals at intersections without power as stop signs.

  • The map above shows areas in Berkeley impacted by the PSPS. To see if a specific address is impacted, use the address finder at the PG&E website. Please have patience, as the web servers are experiencing heavy traffic, resulting in frequent website crashes and limited accessibility.

  • Contact the City of Berkeley Customer Service Line at 311 or (510) 981-2489 and consider evacuating if you have accessibility needs or you use life sustaining medical equipment that is compromised during an outage.

  • For additional information and updates, visit our city website.

To help prevent potentially devastating wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electricity (PG&E) has the ability to call for a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). To help inform what this means for you, below are FAQs on this event and how you can prepare for it.

What is the purpose of the Public Safety Power Shutoff?

The two most destructive wildfires in California’s history took place in 2018 (Camp Fire, Paradise) and 2017 (Tubbs Fire, Santa Rosa). In both these fires, it was determined that they were caused by failures of electrical equipment. To help prevent future incidents of a fire being started by a similar cause, PG&E received permission to call a PSPS. These are activated if weather conditions become favorable for a wildfire to quickly spread, which consists of three main factors: high temperatures, high winds, and low humidity. Based on current weather data, PG&E may choose to implement a PSPS. PG&E aims to notify the public 48 hours before a PSPS event, and again 24 hours later, and again right before the shutoff. In extreme cases, notifications may be sent outside of those hours in the interest of safety. 

Berkeley gets its electricity from East Bay Community Energy (EBCE). Will we still be impacted by a PG&E shutoff?

Yes. Even though EBCE is Berkeley’s, and most of Alameda County’s energy provider, the role of EBCE is energy procurement. EBCE still relies on PG&E’s infrastructure to transport that electricity, and it is PG&E’s power lines that will be turned off.

How long will the power be out for?

PG&E is calling for a PSPS event across Alameda County on Wednesday, October 9 that began at 11pm. PG&E says they have begun the process to resume power at 3pm. However, it may take time for the power to return. It is not as simple as flipping a switch; power lines must be inspected first before power is restored. While this will directly impact areas outlined in the map above, areas that are outside the zones may experience rolling blackouts due to power line connections serving people outside the impacted areas. 

Regardless of the length of the PSPS event, the City of Berkeley encourages people to be prepared to live without electricity for up to six days. 

What should I do to prepare?

PG&E makes the following recommendations:

Before a power shutoff:

  • Confirm or update your contact information with PG&E so you can receive notifications of PSPS events.

  • Create a safety plan for all members of your family, including pets.

  • Prepare an emergency supply kit with enough water and nonperishable food to last your household one week. This kit should be updated annually.

  • Determine if your landline will work during an outage. Keep a mobile phone as backup and ensure it is fully charged.

  • Have flashlights (no candles), a radio, and extra batteries available.

  • Keep cash on hand and if you have a car, a full tank of gas. ATMs and gas stations may not be available during an outage.

  • Learn how to manually open your garage or any other door that operates with electricity.

  • Talk with your building manager if you live or work in a building that has elevators or electronic key card access to understand how they will deal with a possible multi-day outage.

During a power shutoff:

  • Unplug or turn off appliances, equipment and electronics to avoid damage caused by surges when the power is restored. However, keep one light on to alert you to when the power returns.

  • Typically, your refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours and a full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours--as long as the freezer and refrigerator doors are kept closed. Consider using coolers with ice to keep food cold and safe.

  • Be sure to use generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills outdoors only. Do not use a gas stove for heat.

  • Check on your neighbors. 

I rely on electricity for my medical device. What should I do?

A power outage is a serious issue for people who have medical devices such as a respirator, battery dependent assistive technology such as a wheelchair, or have refrigerated medications. PG&E recommends the following tips:

  • Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them handy.

  • Identify a backup location where you can go if necessary.

  • Consider a safe backup source, such as an electrical generator or uninterruptible power supply. 

  • Regularly check that your backup or alternative power source is working properly.

  • Teach people you might contact for help how to operate your equipment and backup systems.

  • Label your equipment with your name, contact information, and clear instructions how to operate the equipment.

  • Check with your equipment provider for further advice.

  • If you use a life-support device, contact PG&E about signing up for the Medical Baseline Program.

What is Berkeley doing to address wildfire safety?
In light of the major fires over the past couple of years, we are making our biggest investment ever in wildfire safety. In our budget approved at the end of June, we allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars towards vegetation management and emergency response training. We are also proposing $1.1 million for the development of an outdoor emergency warning system, which will be voted on in November. Earlier this year, I joined Governor Gavin Newsom and other local and regional leaders and firefighters at Tilden Regional Park in announcing the creation of the North Ordina Fuel Break. This will create a 14 mile firebreak between the wildland-urban interface in Berkeley to the west and Orinda to the east. Click here for more information on what we are doing to address wildfire safety.

Jesse Arreguin