Wildfire safety

Our commitment to you

At SMUD, we’re continually monitoring, evolving and expanding our wildfire safety efforts throughout our service territory and beyond.

While we’re fortunate that Sacramento County isn’t designated as a high fire threat area because of our urban conditions, flat terrain and low fuel load we know that there are still risks and are always looking for ways to minimize them.

To reduce the risk of wildfire and improve safety, we’re working to enhance wildfire prevention, put new and improved safety measures in place and make the electric system more resilient.

Where are the high-risk areas?

Our biggest risk of wildfire lies near our operations in the forested area surrounding our hydroelectric project in El Dorado County. Our 688-megawatt hydroelectric system is a reliable, economical and emission-free source of power, consisting of a system of dams, reservoirs and powerhouses. While it produces electricity year-round, it helps us meet the high demand for electricity in summer months.

What's SMUD doing to prevent wildfires?

We are taking proactive and precautionary measures to help reduce wildfire risks and help keep our customers and the communities we serve safe. SMUD vegetation management crews have been busy inspecting, maintaining and clearing large areas of trees with high fuel loads and elevated fire risk under and near transmission lines in the Sierra Foothills. We’re also using digital technology to identify the trees and other vegetative growth in this area and in other areas that pose threats to public safety and to SMUD’s power system reliability.

The safety of our customers, community and employees is our top priority. SMUD's Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide is one tool to help you prepare for outages and other emergencies.  Find information about:

  • outages
    • what to do if the power goes out
    • how we prioritize restoring your electric service
  • how to assemble an emergency supply kit
  • creating an emergency plan
  • resources in the event of an emergency

Wildfire readiness tips

SMUD encourages customers to take steps to prepare for wildfires. CAL Fire suggests you plan, know and act. Visit CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire for more information. For statewide wildfire recovery resources, visit California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Visit other SMUD web pages to:
See if your neighborhood is scheduled for an outage
Learn how we keep you safe

Safety is SMUD’s number one priority. If extreme conditions, such as high risk of fires, threaten our system, we may, as a last resort, temporarily turn off power to protect public safety. The decision to turn off power requires a balancing of several factors, including but not limited to: circumstances of the emergency, wind speed, temperature, humidity, field observations by SMUD crews and information from fire agencies.

Public safety power shutoff

Wildfires are ever-increasing in number, length and ferocity. This has led utilities, including SMUD, to take unprecedented actions to further guard against utility infrastructure either starting or worsening a wildfire. One potential action would be to shut power off to either our transmission or distribution lines when fire conditions are considered extreme.

An active fire is one reason why we'd implement a public safety power shutoff. In most cases, it would involve disconnecting power to an area surrounding the fire for the duration of the emergency situation to ensure public safety. Power would be restored once the fire is out and it can be safely reconnected.

Although the risk is low, if we must shut off power when the demand for power is extremely high, rotating outages could occur. Rotating outages would be a last resort and we’ll use every tool at our disposal, including air conditioning load management, commercial customer curtailment and buying power on the open market before we would consider rotating outages.

What this means for our customers

While our risk of wildfires is very low in Sacramento County, a public safety power outage could impact any of our customers who receive electric service from SMUD due to the interconnected nature of the electric grid.

 

We’ll work with our customers and community to give you tools to keep your home or business safe during extreme conditions.

Frequently asked questions

How will SMUD determine if the power needs to be shut off?
Each situation is unique so the factors that determine if SMUD will implement a Public Safety Power Shutoff depend on circumstances. Turning off the power is a last resort to maintain public and customer safety during extreme fire risk conditions.

SMUD will take a combination of many factors into consideration when implementing a power shutoff, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Extreme fire danger threat levels, as classified by the National Fire Danger Rating System
  • A Red Flag Warning declaration by the National Weather Service
  • Low humidity levels
  • Sustained high winds
  • Site-specific conditions like temperature, terrain and local climate
  • Critically dry vegetation that could serve as fuel for a wildfire
  • On-the-ground, real-time observation from SMUD or other agency field staff

How and when will I be notified if a shutoff is necessary?

Whenever possible, we'll provide potentially impacted customers with notice before shutting power off, using all available channels to reach customers and other stakeholders with outage information. Sudden onset of conditions could impact our ability to provide advance notice to customers. If conditions allow, we’ll communicate with customers in the following ways:

  • Automated phone calls will go out to customers in potentially impacted areas/neighborhoods advising when the outage is scheduled and directing them to smud.org/Outages for up-to-date information.
  • Our website, smud.org/Outages has been updated with features to enhance customer communications before and during power shutoff events. The new features include a rotating outage map that show which areas are currently impacted and which areas will be impacted next.
  • The Contact Center Interactive Voice Response will have real-time recorded information informing customers that may be impacted before the rotating outages begin.
  • Ongoing mass media and social media outreach will be provided throughout the shutoff to give customers and the community the latest information about the rotating outages.
  • Key Account customers will be contacted by their SMUD Strategic Account Advisor.

How long will my electricity be out if a public safety power shutoff is necessary? 
Each situation is unique. In a situation where rotating outages are necessary, we anticipate that we’ll interrupt service for approximately one hour to the number of “sections” necessary to match electricity demand with available supply.

For example, if the shortfall is 100 MW, we’ll interrupt service to two “sections,” and well start with sections 1 and 2. If the emergency isn’t resolved within an hour, we’ll rotate the outage to sections 3 and 4. The outages will progress through the sections in one-hour increments until the situation is resolved.

In other situations, outage times may be longer depending on location, severity and urgency of the situation. All customers should be prepared for the possibility of extended outages.

Why would a community not experiencing strong winds have their power shut off? 
Turning off the power is a last resort to maintain public and customer safety during extreme fire risk conditions. All SMUD’s customers could be impacted due to the connected nature of the electrical grid. We would rotate outages through all areas so one neighborhood is not impacted more than others.

Will I be compensated for spoiled food or other losses?
Since power will be shut off for public safety due to extreme fire conditions, we will not reimburse customers for losses. If rotating outages occur, power should only be out for one-hour periods of time, but all customers should be prepared for any extended outages and have an emergency plan in place.

What do I need in my emergency preparedness plan? 
At SMUD, we prepare all year to make sure you have safe and reliable electric service at your home or business. We want to offer you tools to prepare your home and family in case of an emergency. Use this guide to help you get ready. The safety of our employees, customers and community is our top priority. We encourage customers to take steps to prepare for wildfires. Visit CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire for more information. For statewide wildfire recovery resources, visit California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

If I am a MED Rate customer will my power be shut off?

We know how important reliable electric service is to our customers, especially those using medical equipment. We make every effort to prevent outages but cannot guarantee that they will not occur. In case of emergency, every customer in SMUD’s territory could be impacted by rotating outages. Please be prepared and find a location that will have emergency backup power and have a plan to evacuate to that location if necessary. SMUD’s goal is to provide as much notice as possible of a public safety power shutoff to minimize the impact on our customers and community. A sudden onset of conditions could impact our ability to provide that notice.

 

 

Wildfire Mitigation Plan

We are drafting a Wildfire Mitigation Plan, which focuses on the safety of our community and employees. It outlines our work to address the risk of utility-associated wildfire through a variety of programs for our electrical lines and equipment. Learn more about the Wildfire Mitigation Plan.

View draft Wildfire Mitigation Plan

Additional resources:

SMUD's Wildfire Policy and Procedure brochure
National Weather Service