Memorial Day Weekend Safety: Steps You Can Take to Have Fun and Stay Fire Safe
For many people, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. It’s the weekend when people start cleaning up their yards, head out for the first camping or boating trip of the summer and break out grills for barbecuing. With high wildfire danger persisting in many parts of the state due to warm, dry conditions, customers are encouraged to recreate safely and create defensible space around their property to stop the spread of wildfires.
“With the start of summer, our customers are spending more time outdoors and getting ready for family fun. Making sure you are prepared and keep safety at the forefront whether you are traveling or enjoying time at home is very important,” said Marlene Santos, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at PG&E. “Our message is simple: Have fun and be safe.”
For people enjoying time outdoors, PG&E offers the following tips to play safe on Memorial Day weekend:
- Only build campfires when and where authorized, and put them completely out; use plenty of water, and stir until the coals are cool to the touch.
- Never use a grill indoors including garages, overhangs and canopies.
- With a number of beaches and lakes in its service area, PG&E encourages the public to take appropriate safety precautions when recreating in and near water:
- Obey all warning signs and restrictive buoys while swimming or boating.
- Use the Buddy System. Never fish, swim, boat or raft alone.
- Don’t dive or jump into unfamiliar water. Shallow water or submerged trees or rocks could cause serious injury.
- Recreating in PG&E canals and flumes is strictly prohibited. Stay out of these water conveyances, which are very dangerous due to slippery sides and fast-moving water.
- Dispose of lit, smoking materials appropriately.
If customers decide to stay home for the three-day weekend and avoid the crowds, now is a good time to think about protecting your home from wildfire.
California law requires homeowners to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around homes and structures, or to the property line, by clearing out flammable materials such as brush or vegetation to help halt the progress of an approaching wildfire. This defensible space also provides for firefighter safety while they protect homes during a wildfire.
According to the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County, creating a buffer around your home does not mean you need a ring of bare dirt surrounding your property. With proper planning, you can have a fire safe home and a beautiful landscape. The general concept is that trees should be kept farthest from the house, shrubs can be closer, and lawns and bedding plants can be the closest.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce wildfire risk on your property:
- Regularly clear the roof and rain gutters by removing dead leaves and pine needles.
- Strategically landscape with fire-resistant plants to keep things lean and green in the area within 30 feet of a home
- Trim tree branches that hang over the roof. Look up before planting or pruning trees and work at a safe distance by keeping yourself and tools at least 10 feet away from power lines at all times.
- Plant the right tree in the right place to help promote fire safety, reduce power outages and ensure beauty for years to come. Trees need space to grow both above and below ground.
- Repair or replace any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
- Remove anything stored underneath decks and porches.
- Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows.
For more preparedness resources, visit PG&E’s Safety Action Center, which provides information to help customers keep their families, homes, and businesses safe during natural disasters and other emergencies. The site includes tips on how to create a personalized emergency plan, what to pack in an emergency supply kit, and how to prepare in advance for power outages and Public Safety Power Shutoff events. To learn more, visit safetyactioncenter.pge.com.
Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Preparedness and Resources
During severe weather, PG&E may need to turn off power for public safety as high winds can cause tree branches or debris to contact energized electric lines, which could damage electrical equipment and cause a major wildfire.
It is important that all customer contact information is up to date so customers can receive important wildfire safety alerts, outage updates and information through channels such as social media, local news, radio and the pge.com website.
Extreme weather threats can change quickly. PG&E's goal, dependent on weather and other factors, is to send customer alerts through automated calls, texts, and emails at 48 hours, again at 24 hours, and once more just prior to shutting off power.
Besides updating their contact information to prepare for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), PG&E encourages customers to do the following:
- Have an emergency plan for wildfires and discuss it with your friends, family and neighbors.
- Replenish or pack a go-bag or 72-hour emergency kit that can be used if you need to evacuate.
To continue to support customers before, during and after PSPS events, PG&E is:
- Refining customer notifications to provide better information in 16 languages about when power will be turned off and back on.
- Providing Address Alerts, which allow customers and non-account holders to receive notifications about PSPS events for any address they care about.
- Continuing to expand the network of event-ready, ADA-accessible indoor Community Resource Center sites, which include basic medical equipment charging, device charging, Wi-Fi and other amenities.
- Expanding meal replacement resources from local food banks to cover every county likely to be impacted by a PSPS event. A combination of perishable and nonperishable food will be available up until three days after restoration from a PSPS event.
- Providing customers who depend on well water pumps and live in high fire-threat areas with rebates for purchasing a qualified portable power generator through the Generator Rebate Program.
- Helping communities plan and implement their own electric microgrid through the Community Microgrid Enablement Program.
Additional Support for Customers with Medical and Independent Living Needs
To further support customers in the access and functional needs (AFN) population, PG&E is providing additional resources including:
- Growing PG&E’s network of community-based organization partnerships focused on serving customers in the AFN community with accessible transportation resources, hotel accommodations and food stipends, emergency preparedness outreach and education and Medical Baseline Program enrollment.
- Providing a total of 11,500 portable batteries to customers with medical or independent living needs through both the portable battery program and community-based organization partnerships, cumulative over two years (9,000 portable batteries to low-income Medical Baseline customers in high fire-threat areas impacted by two or more PSPS events and an additional 2,500 portable batteries to customers with medical or independent living needs).
- Expanding notifications for those with medical needs by allowing customers to self-certify as being medically vulnerable.
- Providing additional meals to seniors impacted by a PSPS event through a Meals on Wheels partnership.
Continuing to Build a Safer System
We are continuing to make our system safer and more resilient to reduce PSPS events for our customers and communities. There is no single solution to wildfire safety, which is why we are continuing to evolve and improve all our wildfire safety programs including:
- Meeting and exceeding state vegetation standards across 1,800 miles to manage trees and other vegetation located near power lines that could cause a wildfire or power outage.
- Continuing to upgrade the electric grid by hardening at least 180 miles of power lines to reduce wildfire risks.
- Installing 250 sectionalizing devices to narrow the scope of PSPS events so fewer customers are without power.
- Piloting new technologies that detect threats to the electric grid and rapidly reduce or shut off power thus reducing the need for larger PSPS events.
- Employing new risk models to better pinpoint our wildfire safety prevention efforts.
Online Customer Resources
For information about PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program
Live weather information, a 7-day PSPS
Information on keeping your family, home and business safe during a PSPS
Information on backup power options, safety tips, financing options, a marketplace to search major backup power retailers and more
Learn more about PG&E’s Medical Baseline Program for those who rely on power for medical devices
Sign up for Address Alerts to receive PSPS notifications for any address important to you outside of your billing address
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.