Oregon is experiencing longer and more intense wildfire seasons than ever before. As we learned in the Labor Day wildfires across our state in 2020, these events can impact each and every one of us. Additionally, Oregon experienced severe ice storms in 2021 that also cut off electricity for thousands of Oregonians. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) wants to ensure everyone is prepared for future wildfire and weather-related events and potential power outages they can cause.
Power Outages and Public Safety Power Shutoffs
During a wildfire or severe weather event, power outages can happen because of damage to a utility’s infrastructure, such as power lines or power poles. There are also times that electric utility service providers may perform a public safety power shutoff (PSPS). This is a safety measure designed to help protect communities in high fire-risk areas by proactively shutting off electricity during extreme and dangerous weather conditions that might cause the electricity system to spark wildfires. If a PSPS becomes necessary, the utilities will work to inform their customers directly.
While utilities often restore power for customers even before a winter storm has ended, during extreme winds in the summer, utilities will need to inspect power lines for damage after winds have passed. It may take longer to fully restore power safely in the summer.
Below are links to access the outage and PSPS information online for the investor-owned utilities regulated by the PUC:
Prepare for Emergencies Before They Happen
- Register to receive alerts from official sources. Download the FEMA mobile app and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Also, sign up for emergency notifications with your local city and/or county, as well as outage alerts from your electric utility service provider.
- Develop an emergency plan and make sure everyone in your household knows and understands what to do in the event of an evacuation.
- Create a circle of safety around your home, which is a fuel-free defensible space that can help reduce fire danger. Visit Keep Oregon Green for more information.
Be Ready for a Power Outage
- Be 2 Weeks Ready – Gather food, medical supplies, batteries, pet supplies, among other things, needed by family members during an outage or evacuation for up to two weeks.
- For individuals with a medical conditions that requires power, please contact your service provider in advance of an outage to register a Medical Certificate. The utilities work to contact vulnerable customers, including those with medical certificates, in the event of an outage or PSPS. Also, consider a backup generator or alternative location for power needs.
- Keep cell phones fully charged in anticipation of an outage. Consider a car-charger for cell phones and other electronics.
- Keep vehicle gas tanks at least half full, as power outages may impact fuel pumps at gas stations.
- Make sure your utility service provider has current contact information for notifications by updating your account online.
During a Power Outage
- Contact your electric utility service provider to inform them of an outage. Below is the contact information for the investor-owned utilities regulated by the PUC. If uncertain which utility serves your area, find your utility.
- Portland General Electric – 800-544-1795
- Pacific Power – 877-508-5088
- Idaho Power – 800-488-6151
- Avoid downed power lines at all costs.
- Stay clear of utility crews working to restore service in your community.
- Use flashlights or battery operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
- Turn off lights and unplug electric appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer to help avoid a surge to the system when service is restored. After turning off all the lights, turn one light on to know when power has been restored.
- Use generators safely – Do not run the generator inside the home or garage or anywhere near a window or vent, as these spaces can capture deadly levels of carbon monoxide. Learn more about proper use of a generator to avoid hazardous conditions.
- Check on elderly neighbors or individuals with special needs who might need additional assistance.
Natural Gas Tips During a Power Outage or Evacuation
- If required to evacuate, no need to shut off your natural gas.
- If your natural gas appliances do not operate properly once electricity is restored, call your natural gas service provider.
- If natural gas service is shut off, do not turn it back on yourself. Call your natural gas service provider to restore service.
- If you smell natural gas, evacuate immediately and call 911.