We recognize the devastating impacts of wildfires and are always working to make the safety of our employees, customers and community our top priority. While our risk of wildfire is low in our service area, we encourage customers to be prepared for a possible emergency.
ACRES IN UARP PATROLLED AND MAINTAINED
Miles of distribution lines patrolled and maintained
TREES PRUNED ANNUALLY
Is SMUD territory at risk?
We make every effort to construct, maintain and operate our electrical lines and equipment to minimize potential wildfire risk.
While our risk of wildfires is very low in Sacramento County, we may shut off power as a last resort. We're fortunate that Sacramento County is not designated as a high fire threat area. Even though our urban conditions, flat terrain and low fuel load make us a low wildfire risk area, we are always looking for ways to minimize any threat.
Our biggest risk of wildfire is near our operations in the forested area surrounding our hydroelectric project in El Dorado County, called the Upper American River Project (UARP). Our 688-megawatt hydroelectric system is a reliable, economical and emission-free source of power, consisting of a system of dams, reservoirs and powerhouses.
What is SMUD doing to prepare?
To reduce the risk of wildfire and improve safety, we're working to enhance wildfire prevention efforts, put new and improved safety measures in place and make the electric system more resilient.
We regularly perform a range of inspections on our transmission and distribution facilities, including:
- Helicopter aerial inspections
- Ground patrols
- Infrared inspections
- Wood pole intrusive inspections
- Detailed line inspections
- Annual line patrols
- LiDAR vegetation inspections
- Splice x-rays
Our vegetation management crews have been busy inspecting and maintaining vegetation around SMUD’s power lines. We’ve increased clearing of large areas of trees and brush with high fuel loads and elevated fire risk around transmission lines. We’re also using digital technology to identify the trees and other vegetative growth around our power lines that could pose threats to public safety and to SMUD’s power system reliability.
We actively forecast and plan for upcoming work several years in advance to allow adequate levels of staffing and funding for projects to maintain safety and reliability. We also look for ways to constantly improve our programs to mitigate fire risk with various tools like real time monitoring weather stations in the UARP and the Sacramento Metropolitan area.
Other efforts include:
- Placing distribution wires underground
- Replacing fusing, arrestors and other equipment with non-spark emitting equipment
- Installing covered conductors and utilizing ductile-iron and steel poles
Wildfire Mitigation Plan
Our Wildfire Mitigation Plan 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. Read our Wildfire Safety Brochure for an overview of our efforts and learn more about the Wildfire Mitigation Plan. An independent evaluator’s report on the plan can be found here.
Will SMUD turn off my power?
Safety is our number one priority. If extreme conditions, like 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
- Field observations by SMUD crews
- Information from fire agencies
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. If we must shut off power, rotating outages could occur. We would use every tool at our disposal before we would call for a shutoff.
If a shutoff is necessary, we will communicate with customers and key stakeholders, including government agencies and critical service providers to give as much notice as possible and minimize the impact on our customers and community. Our rotating outage page will be updated in the event of a shutoff.
How will SMUD determine if the power needs to be shut off?
We have a de-energization protocol in place in the event that extreme conditions create the risk of starting or accelerating a wildfire event. We would use de-energization as a last resort to protect public safety.
Each situation is unique so the factors that determine if SMUD will implement a de-energization event depends on the specific circumstance. 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 power shutoff is necessary?
In the unlikely event we have to turn power off due to wildfire threat in our service territory, outage times will vary depending on location, severity and urgency of the situation. Power will remain off for the impacted areas until weather conditions improve and power lines are inspected and repaired, if necessary. This could take several hours or days depending on conditions.
We may also be forced to turn power off due to a lack of adequate power supply from interconnected transmission lines from surrounding utilities. If the power supply is severely limited, we’ll try to reduce the demand for power as much as possible before going to rotating outages, which would be a last resort. The likelihood of rotating outages is extremely low, but it’s best to be prepared for such a scenario. For information on outages in our service area visit smud.org/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. Customers not in the immediate area of potential danger can be have their power shut off due to the connected nature of the electrical grid. But, we would rotate outages through all areas, circuit by circuit, to minimize the impact to everyone.
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. The State of California has also created a one stop website, response.ca.gov, to provide information about wildfires, local resources and preparedness information that can help you be ready for the unknown.
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 if we needed to shut off power to minimize the impact on our customers and community. A sudden onset of conditions could impact our ability to provide that notice.
The safety of our customers, community and employees is our top priority. Use these resources to help you prepare for a possible emergency or outage:
- Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide – use this guide for an overview of tips on how to create an emergency plan and emergency supply kit and view resource contact information. The Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide is also available in these languages:
- Emergency planning checklist – use this short checklist as a quick reference in the event of an emergency.
Other local agencies also encourage customers to take steps to prepare for wildfires and offer a range of resources:
- 211 Sacramento connects residents to more than 1,600 community services in the Sacramento area.
- Sacramento County offers a range of resources to help residents prepare for the unexpected and be Sacramento Ready.
- 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.
- The State of California has created response.ca.gov to provide information about wildfires, local resources and preparedness information to help you prepare for the unknown.
- The National Weather Service site will help you prepare, be aware and act early if a wildfire comes your way.