Attention - Utility Wildfire Safety
Healdsburg Electric Department's Wildfire Mitigation Plan
Over the last few years, devastating and destructive wildfires driven by climate change have had a significant impact on California and the areas surrounding Healdsburg. These changes in our climate coupled with increased housing in and adjacent to wildland urban interfaces (WUI) now require electric utilities to rethink their past operational procedures and construction standards. Under the new laws every publicly owned utility must prepare and present a Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP) to its governing body annually.
Healdsburg Utility Wildfire Safety: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How does the City of Healdsburg get its electric power?
A: To deliver electricity to our customers, the City owns generation plants (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, natural gas) throughout northern California. Once the energy is produced, it is transported across the State’s transmission grid, a network of high-voltage powerlines, to the City’s substation at Badger Park. The City owns and operates the distribution powerlines that deliver electric power from the substation to our electric customers.
- “Electrical Grid 101: All You Need to Know!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbPmsBmo03Y
- U.S. Department of Energy: “Understanding the Grid”https://www.energy.gov/articles/infographic-understanding-grid
Q: Can the City guarantee power because we have our own electric utility?
A: As with most things, there are no guarantees; this includes the supply of electric power. Planned maintenance, birds, squirrels, weather events, and the occasional car accident can cause power outages and customers should be prepared for these events. We do provide 24/7 on-call staff coverage to speed outage restoration after-hours and our maintenance and repair programs tend to prevent many outages from occurring. The emergency Utility Hotline can be reached by calling (707) 431-7000 or toll free at (855) 755-6586.
Q: Who do I call if I experience a power outage or other utility-related emergency or issue?
A: Call (707) 431-7000 or (855) 755-6586. You will be asked to enter your account’s phone number including the area code. Select the appropriate reason for your call and a live representative will assist you with your problem.
Q: How is the City preparing for the increasing threat of wildfires?
A: The City has and continues to implement best practices such as constant patrolling of electric lines, annual inspections, installing new equipment, and line clearance tree trimming. For example, the City completed system hardening work along North Fitch Mountain Road. This work strengthened the poles and wires while also moving conductors further away from trees. View the Wildfire Mitigation Plan for more information.
Q: Will the City turn off electric power should a fire or a high-wind event occur in Healdsburg?
A: If there is a safety concern, the City will assess the situation and may shut down (de-energize) portions of the power lines. Power outages in Healdsburg are rare and the City’s proactive work – such as ongoing tree trimming and overhead line maintenance -- significantly reduce the need to de-energize lines, but electric outages and public-safety power shutdowns are still a possibility.
Q: What areas within Healdsburg are most likely to be affected by public-safety power shutdowns?
A: The areas most likely to experience power shutdowns are along the western slope of the ridge east of the golf course and adjacent to the City’s open spaces. These areas are within the City’s Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and by their nature have increased vegetation and risk of wildfire.
Q: How will the City’s electric customers know if there is a public-safety power shutdown?
A: If the City needs to de-energize power lines in the event of a disaster such as a wildfire, the City will make every effort to communicate those shutdowns in advance via tools including NIXLE, emergency alerts on the City’s website, social media, and automated phone calls. The City is taking preventative measures to lessen or avoid the need for power shutdowns.
Q: How do I know if the City has my most up-to-date contact information, including my cell phone number?
A: City utility customers can update their contact information by calling (707) 431-7000 or toll-free (855) 755-6586. You will be prompted to enter your phone number including the area code. Select option 2 and a live representative will assist you in updating your billing information.
Q: As a customer, what should I do to prepare for a power outage?
A: The City has developed an emergency preparedness brochure (in both English and Spanish) to help the community better prepare for natural disasters in general. Included in the brochure is information on how to create an “emergency kit”. The brochure is available on the Emergency Services webpage here (bit.ly/CoHemergency).
Specific to a public-safety power shutdown, below are some actions that you, your family, friends, and neighbors should take to prepare.
- Sign up for the City’s emergency alerts via NIXLE by texting your zip code (95448) to 888777.
- Charge your cell phone and identify back-up charging methods for phones and other electronic devices.
- If the power does go out, make sure to turn off all unnecessary appliances such as stoves, clothing iron, hair dryers, lights, and/or curling irons.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers in case the power goes out. If your normal water supply is contaminated or unavailable, the melting ice will also supply drinking water.
- Make sure you have a supply of bottled water. It is recommended to store one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.
- Prepare or re-stock your emergency kit with flashlights, portable cell-phone chargers, fresh batteries, first aid supplies, cash, water, and food that will last up to five days.
- Keep emergency, family, and other important phone numbers accessible in hard copy
- Plan for any medical needs, such as ongoing prescriptions, medications that need refrigeration, or medical devices that require power.
- If you are dependent on an electric or battery-dependent medical technology such as a breathing machine, a power wheelchair or scooter, or home oxygen or dialysis, it is critical that you have a plan in place for an extended power outage.
- Plan ahead for the needs of pets and/or livestock.
- Know how to manually open your garage door or other access points of your property that rely on power.
- If you have a backup generator, make sure the generator is ready and safe to operate. Always follow the generator’s safety instructions and never refuel your generator while it’s running.
- Identify any unique needs of your family and loved ones should there be a loss of power.
- After power is restored remember to reset clocks, irrigation controls, programmable thermostats and other electronic devices.
Q: PG&E is stating that they will de-energize portions of California’s transmission systems when wildfires occur. How will this affect Healdsburg?
A: The state’s transmission grid, a series of high-voltage power lines, is extremely reliable. The City does depend on PG&E’s transmission system to power the City’s sub-station, but the primary transmission feed does not run through fire-threat zones (Tier 2 or 3). While the City did lose its transmission source during the 2019 Kincade Fire, shutting down transmission lines is rare and citywide power outages are very unlikely.
Q: How fast will power be restored after a public-safety power shutdown?
A: It depends on the specific situation – it could be a few hours, 24 hours, or longer. Regardless of the reason for the power outage, the City will take every safe and sensible step to restore power as soon as possible. During widespread outages, the City will provide status updates through social media and NIXLE alerts of estimated times to restore power. We encourage the City’s electric customers to sign up for NIXLE by texting your zip code (95448) to 888777. Following the City’s Facebook and Nextdoor pages will also provide up-to-date and current information from the City.
Q: What if I or a family member are dependent upon medical devices or limited mobility?
A: Let the Utility department know if you are dependent upon medical devices requiring electricity or have limited mobility at bit.ly/UTILAFN or 707-431-3307. We are committed to providing additional safety measures for customers who need energy for certain medical needs, including sending extra notifications. View examples of medical needs and recommended power outage preparations.
Q: How is a State-issued flex alert different from a public-safety power shutdown? What should I do during a flex alert?
A: Flex Alerts are voluntary calls for consumers to conserve electricity. When the power system is stressed and available supply may be insufficient to meet expected demand, the State will be asking everyone to voluntarily conserve energy. You can help by taking these actions:
- Set thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (if health permits)
- Avoid using major appliances (such as dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and ovens)
- Turn off all unnecessary lights
- Use fans for cooling instead of air conditioning
- Unplug unused items or turn off power strips
- Avoid charging electric vehicles
- Turn off pool pumps
The City will communicate if a flex alert is expected. Your conservation efforts can help us avoid power outages or service interruptions. Find out more about flex alerts and sign up for notifications from the State at flexalert.org.
These additional resources can help you prepare for public-safety power shutdowns and wildfires.
- Healdsburg Emergency Services: https://ci.healdsburg.ca.us/460/Emergency-Services
- Fact sheet on public-safety power shutdowns: http://prepareforpowerdown.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Statewide_FactSheet_0503.pdf
- Disaster preparedness information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: https://www.ready.gov/wildfires
- CAL FIRE wildfire preparedness information: http://www.readyforwildfire.org/
Q: What if I have more questions about public-safety power shutdowns?
A: Please email email@example.com with your questions and comments.