In observance of Wildfire Awareness Month and in response to an earlier than normal Red Flag Warning issued by the National Weather Service in April, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reminding Oregonians to get ready for the 2021 wildfire season and potential power outages.
“If the Labor Day Fires in 2020 taught us anything, it’s to be ready for future wildfire events, regardless of where you live in Oregon,” said Letha Tawney, PUC commissioner. “The PUC and other state agencies are providing information early to help Oregonians avoid being caught by surprise by wildfires that may require evacuations, utilities to implement public safety power shut-offs, or cause wide-spread power outages.”
Prepare for Wildfires Before They Happen
• Register to receive alerts from official sources. Download the FEMA app and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Also, sign up for emergency notifications with your local city and/or county, as well as outage alerts from your electric utility service provider.
• Develop an emergency plan and make sure everyone in your household knows and understands what to do in the event of an evacuation.
• Create a circle of safety around your home, which is a fuel-free defensible space that can help reduce fire danger. Visit Keep Oregon Green for more information.
Prepare for a Potential Power Outage
Wildfires can cause power outages, or electric utilities may elect to implement a public safety power shutoff (PSPS). This is a safety measure designed to help protect people and communities in high fire-risk areas by proactively shutting off electricity during extreme and dangerous weather conditions that might result in wildfires. If a PSPS becomes necessary for electric utilities to implement, the service providers will contact their customers directly. Below are links to access the outage and PSPS information online for the investor-owned utilities regulated by the PUC:
• Portland General Electric
• Pacific Power
• Idaho Power
Oregonians are encouraged to do the following to prepare for a potential power outage before the 2021 wildfire season:
• Be two weeks ready – Gather food, medical supplies, batteries, pet supplies, among other things, needed by family members during an outage or evacuation for up to two weeks. Learn more about what supplies to consider.
• For individuals with a medical condition that requires power, please contact your service provider in advance of an outage to register a Medical Certificate. This certification provides added benefits and helps the utility ensure they meet your needs in the event of an outage. Also, consider a backup generator or alternative location for power needs.
• Keep cell phones fully charged in anticipation of an outage. Consider a car-charger for cell phones and other electronic devices.
• Make sure your utility service provider has current contact information for notifications by updating your account online.
During a Power Outage
• Contact your electric utility service provider to inform them of an outage. Below is the contact information for the investor-owned utilities regulated by the PUC. If uncertain which utility serves your area, visit https://www.oregon.gov/energy/energy-oregon/pages/find-your-utility.aspx.
o Portland General Electric – 800-544-1795
o Pacific Power – 877-508-5088
o Idaho Power – 800-488-6151
• Avoid downed power lines at all costs.
• Stay clear of utility crews working to restore service in your community.
• Use flashlights or battery operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
• Turn off lights and unplug electric appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer to help avoid a surge to the system when service is restored. After turning off all the lights, turn one light on to know when power has been restored.
• Use generators safely – Do not run the generator inside the home or garage or anywhere near a window or vent, as these spaces can capture deadly levels of carbon monoxide. Learn more about proper use of a generator to avoid hazardous conditions.
• Check on elderly neighbors or individuals with special needs who might need additional assistance.
Natural Gas Tips
• If required to evacuate, no need to shut off natural gas.
• If natural gas appliances do not operate properly once electricity is restored, call your natural gas service provider.
• If natural gas service is shut off, do not turn on yourself. Call your natural gas service provider to restore service.
• If you smell natural gas, evacuate immediately and call 911.