PSE has power shutoff plan to prevent wildfires

Puget Sound Energy may temporarily shut off power lines to help reduce the risk of wildfires.

Puget Sound Energy announced it may temporarily shut off power lines to help reduce the risk of wildfires.

This might help protect areas of Whidbey Island that are at “medium” risk of wildfires, as illustrated in a risk map provided by the company.

The risk map shows areas served by the service provider, and the level of wildfire risk they are exposed to, ranked from “very low” to “high” based on the abundance of fuel (like vegetation), moisture levels in the fuel and the area’s weather history.

The majority of Whidbey Island seems to be at medium risk, especially the South End, according to the map. Most of the areas served by Puget Sound Energy are at very low or low risk, while the few areas at high risk are mainly located in Kittitas and Skagit counties.

The Public Safety Power Shutoff could be used whenever experts forecast conditions like strong winds, dry vegetation and low humidity, according to the service provider. According to Director of Communications Christina Donnegan, Puget Sound Energy may also shut off power at the request of first responders, allowing them to work more safely.

Director of Electric Operations Ryan Murphy said this course of action will be used as a last resort as the service provider takes preventive measures year round.

Puget Sound Energy will restore power after the weather event has passed and after crews inspect the power lines and make repairs. This could take several days, depending on the presence of active wildfires nearby and the extent of the damages.

If wildfire-friendly weather is forecasted, the service provider will notify impacted customers before and during a shutoff, aiming to notify customers two days in advance whenever possible, as the weather forecast can change.

At the same time, Puget Sound Energy will inform emergency response partners, local governments, community organizations and the media whenever a shutoff is expected.

Customers are invited to make sure their account contact information is up to date by visiting or calling 1-888- 225-5773. Depending on account preferences, PSE customers will receive an automated call, text or email alerts, with updates every 12 hours and once power is restored.

To stay updated on estimated times for restoration, customers can check out PSE’s Outage Map and the MyPSE app. The PSE Alerts and Updates webpage will also provide information about shutoffs.

People without an account can receive updates by visiting the Outage Map, then selecting the outage and clicking “Notify me about this outage.” Notifications will then be sent via email or text.

When possible, people who use medical equipment that relies on electricity will receive a phone call about the outage sooner, in addition to the regular alerts. These devices can include dialysis equipment, ventilators, infant apnea monitors, feeding or infusion pumps, suction machines, oxygen concentrators and ventricular assist devices, according to the service provider’s website.

People with medical conditions requiring this equipment should add a Life Support status to their Puget Sound Energy account, though the service provider said it does not guarantee service.

Because of that, customers are advised to have an emergency plan when Life Support isn’t of help. By calling 211, community members can speak with an information and referral specialist who will direct them to the right resources that are available in the area.