Puget Sound Energy introduces wildfire safety initiative

Power lines to be shut off during extreme fire risk weather conditions


Puget Sound Energy (PSE) representatives discussed the company's Wildfire Program and a new initiative, Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), with the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) at a meeting yesterday.

“Over the past decade, wildfires have become a significant public health and safety concern for much of the western United States,” said Puget Sound Energy Senior Local Government Affairs Representative Kristine Rompa.

“As the state's largest utility, PSE is taking a comprehensive approach to decrease the risk of wildfires. We are working to balance safety and the reliable delivery of energy to our communities,” Rompa added.

PSE’s wildlife program has elements relevant to measures taken before, during, and after calamities.

Wildfire Program

The first element of PSE’s Wildfire Program is situational awareness, wherein the facility evaluates the condition of the system and its environment.

“We monitor the condition of our electric system and the environment around it using risk modeling, real-time fire weather monitoring, field technologies, and pre-wildfire season inspections. These methods allow us to accurately assess the risk of wildfire in our region,” said Rompa.

The second element, grid hardening, maintains and improves current infrastructure. This can include enhanced vegetation, management in wildfire-prone areas, installing tree wires, and strategic undergrounding (relocating power lines underground).

The third element consists of operational procedures, including prevention measures and response activities for the electric system’ operation during elevated wildfire risk.

Lastly, community engagement is also part of the PSE’s wildfire program.

“Keeping our customers informed is also a key component of this work— we're committed to keeping our customers and impacted communities informed and engaged in our wildfire program,” Rompa said.

Public Safety Power Shutoff

PSE has operational procedures in place to reduce wildfire risk— temporarily pausing work, Enhanced Powerline Settings, and Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).

During extreme fire-risk weather conditions, the PSPS will be triggered. PSPS temporarily shuts off power lines to help prevent wildfires from starting.

As a “last resort” to keep the community safe, PSE will communicate with impacted customers in advance and during a PSPS.

PSE has a communication strategy concerning PSPS. The plan is to alert customers two days before a PSPS outage.  “I want to stress that the two-day notice is a goal, not a guarantee, and that's because weather is unpredictable and the decision to do a PSPS is driven by weather conditions,” Rompa clarified.

Customers are encouraged to update their PSE account contact information as they will receive automated call text or e-mail alerts based on their account preferences.

Medical life support consumers will receive earlier and enhanced notifications.

PSE foresees restoring power when it is safe— after the weather has passed and crews can inspect the impacted power lines and make corresponding repairs.

Restoration could take several days if damaging winds occur.


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Dogbody

    This seems to be an admission that PSE is not maintaining its lines as it should. Do we have to follow California in all things?

    Saturday, May 11 Report this

  • mtndancer

    "if damaging winds occur"? That means trees hanging over wires. That can be corrected in advance. There is uncertainty by some property owners as to who is responsible for some of the tree branches over or near wires near their house. That is a problem that PSE could solve now.

    Saturday, May 11 Report this