Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) program is an operational practice that SCE may use to preemptively shut off power in high fire risk areas to reduce fire risk during extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions. These conditions would typically involve weather conditions such as relatively low humidity, strong winds, and hot temperatures in combination with dry fuels.
The City of Riverside may be affected by a PSPS event if SCE must shut off power on the transmission lines from the Vista Substation which provide the City’s only connection to the regional electricity grid or if power is shut off on other major transmission lines that support Riverside. In such situations, Riverside will rely on electricity provided by its internal electricity generation at the Riverside Energy Resource Center (RERC) and from the Springs Power Plant. Even with internal generation, customers of Riverside Public Utilities may experience power outages due to the SCE PSPS event which could last as long as 7 days.
The City of Riverside and Riverside Public Utilities encourage residents and businesses to be aware of the potential for an SCE PSPS event and be prepared for a multi-day power outage.
Information below provides details on what a PSPS event is, how to prepare, and how to receive notifications.
How does it affect Riverside residents?
SCE operates and maintains the electric distribution and transmission grid outside the City of Riverside. The larger transmission grid brings most of the electricity into the City. If large transmission lines are de-energized or constrained, then RPU may need to reduce load quickly to help the greater transmission grid. Depending on the severity of the event it may mean power shutoffs or rotating outages in the City of Riverside.
Regardless of the reason for the outage, every step is being taken to restore power as soon as possible. RPU will be providing status updates and information on restoration times as it become available through RPU’s social media and through RiversideAlert regarding restoration times as they become available.
As noted above, a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) is an operational practice that SCE may use to preemptively shut off power in high fire risk areas to reduce fire risk during extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions. These conditions would typically involve weather conditions such as relatively low humidity, strong winds, and hot temperatures in combination with dry fuels. Learn more about the SCE PSPS program here: https://www.sce.com/safety/wildfire/psps
RPU’s service territory in the City of Riverside does not face a high fire risk. RPU has not preemptively shut service because of wildfire threat yet. But some SCE transmission lines do run through high threat fire areas which would limit power availability if these lines needed to be shut down.
While a PSPS event could occur several times per year in SCE’s service area, it is impossible to predict with certainty when, where and how often extreme weather conditions could occur given the rapidly changing environmental conditions.
Predictions of strong winds are one of several criteria that SCE considers when deciding to initiate a Public Safety Power Shutoff, along with other factors like predictions of very low humidity levels combined with critically dry vegetation and on-the-ground observations.
Although you may not live or work in a high fire-threat area or an area experiencing high winds, your power may be shut off if your community relies upon a line that runs through an area experiencing extreme fire danger conditions.
Each situation will be different, just like each day's weather. SCE will need to visually inspect the impacted power lines for damage and should restore power to most customers within 24 to 48 hours after extreme weather has passed. Because any emergency can last several hours or days, for planning purposes, we suggest customers always prepare for outages that could last longer than 48 hours whether due to extreme weather, earthquake or another event.
Each extreme weather event which may require a Public Safety Power Shutoff is unique. While no single factor will drive a Public Safety Power Shutoff, some factors include:
- A red flag warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Low humidity levels – generally 20% and below
- Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph
What to expect
If a Public Safety Power Shutoff is needed due to extreme weather conditions, you can expect:
- Early Warning Notification When possible, SCE will notify RPU 72 hours, 48 hours, 24 hours and just before power lines are turned off.
- Ongoing Updates RPU will provide ongoing updates through social media and on RiversidePublicUtilities.com. Updates will continue until power is restored.
- Safety Inspections After extreme weather has passed, SCE and RPU will inspect the lines in affected areas before power is safely restored.
- Power Restoration Power outages could last multiple days depending on the severity of the weather and other factors. It is important that you and your family have an emergency preparedness plan in place.
What should I do to prepare?
We know how important reliable electric service is to our customers, especially those using medical equipment. We make every effort to prevent outages but cannot guarantee that they will not occur. In case of emergency, every customer in RPU’s territory could be impacted by rotating outages. Please be prepared and find a location that will have emergency backup power and have a plan to evacuate to that location if necessary. RPU’s goal is to provide as much notice as possible of a public safety power shutoff to minimize the impact on our customers and community. A sudden onset of conditions could impact our ability to provide that notice.
If rotating outages occur, power should only be out for two-hour periods of time, but all customers should be prepared for any extended outages and have an emergency plan in place.
It is important to prepare an emergency plan in advance in the event your family is affected by a power shutoff – or any other emergency.
- Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
- Plan for any medical needs like medications that need to be refrigerated or devices that require power.
- Have a personal safety plan in place for every member of your household (including pets).
- Build or restock your emergency supply kit, including food, water, flashlights, a radio, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
- Learn how to manually open your garage door.
- If you own a backup generator, ensure it is ready to safely operate.
- Read more about what to do during a power outage
What is RPU’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan?
Riverside Public Utilities Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP) incorporates information on the methods and procedures the utility employs to ensure the safe construction, maintenance and operation of its electrical infrastructure in order to reduce the risk that the infrastructure could cause a catastrophic wildfire. The WMP specifically discusses RPU’s preventative strategies and operational actions that minimize risk of wildfires caused by RPU’s electrical infrastructure.
Developed by RPU staff in coordination with the Riverside Fire Department, the WMP is prepared in response to requirements that were initially established under Senate Bill 901 (Dodd) in 2018 and that are now embodied in California State Law under Public Utilities Code 8387. The law was put in place to address the catastrophic wildfires that have occurred in recent years.
Working together to protect our community from wildfires
Safety is RPU’s number one priority. If extreme conditions, such as high risk of fires threaten our system, RPU may be required to temporarily turn off power to protect public safety. The decisions to turn off power as a last resort, requires a balancing of several factors such as: circumstances of the emergency, wind speed, temperature, humidity and field observations.
Although the risk is low, if RPU must shut off power when the demand for power is extremely high, rotating outages could occur. Rotating outages are a last resort option and RPU will use every tool at its disposal, including load management, commercial customer curtailment and buying power on the open market before the utility will consider rotating outages.
Learn about Red Flag Warning safety tips to help protect our community.