What is a Public Safety Power Shutoff?

What is a Public Safety Power Shutoff?

The threat of wildfires in California is real and growing. With one-quarter of SCE’s service area in high-risk fire areas, keeping our communities safe by preventing wildfires is a top priority.

One critical tool we use to prevent wildfires is the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), in which we may temporarily shut off power to your neighborhood during dangerous weather conditions to prevent our electric system from becoming a source of ignition. These safety shutoffs are a measure of last resort for keeping you and your community safe.  Here is Edison's Outage Map to see if the power in your neighborhood is shut off due to a PSPS or is under consideration for one.

Should Utilities Shut Off Power When Winds Reach a Certain Speed?

In regions prone to extreme weather conditions, the question of whether utilities should shut off power when winds reach a certain speed has become a subject of debate. The primary concern is the prevention of wildfires, electrical accidents, and infrastructure damage. This article delves into the benefits and considerations surrounding this practice, aiming to shed light on the complexity of the decision-making process.

The Importance of Wind-Related Power Shutdowns

Wildfire Prevention: High winds can turn a small spark into a catastrophic wildfire in a matter of minutes. Shutting off power during windy conditions helps prevent power lines from sparking or being damaged, reducing the risk of starting a fire that could endanger lives and destroy properties.

Infrastructure Protection: Strong winds can lead to physical damage to power lines, poles, and other infrastructure components. By proactively shutting off power, utilities can safeguard their equipment, ensuring the reliability of the power distribution system in the long run.

Public Safety: Power lines that are compromised by strong winds can pose a significant safety hazard to the public. Fallen power lines can electrify areas, leading to accidents or injuries. Cutting off power during severe wind events mitigates this risk.

Balancing Act: Considerations and Challenges

Impact on Residents: While power shutdowns are executed with safety in mind, they can disrupt the lives of residents who rely on electricity for medical equipment, communication, and daily activities. Utilities must have clear communication strategies in place to notify residents of planned shutdowns to allow them to make necessary preparations.

Economic Implications: Shutting off power even briefly can have economic repercussions, affecting businesses, essential services, and daily operations. Finding a balance between safety and economic impact is crucial, possibly involving compensation mechanisms for affected businesses.

Technological Solutions: Advancements in technology offer ways to mitigate the need for widespread power shutdowns. Utilities can invest in more resilient power lines, better insulating materials, and sensors that can automatically detect and isolate faults caused by wind-related damage.

Best Practices and Strategies

Early Warning Systems: Developing accurate wind prediction models can help utilities anticipate severe weather conditions and plan power shutdowns in advance. Collaborating with meteorological agencies can provide real-time updates and improve decision-making.

Community Engagement: Utilities should actively engage with the communities they serve. Public education about the necessity and procedures of power shutdowns during high winds can foster understanding and cooperation among residents.

Emergency Preparedness: Both utilities and residents should have comprehensive emergency plans in place. Utilities can establish dedicated response teams to expedite power restoration after wind events, while residents can have backup power sources and emergency kits on hand.


The question of whether utilities should shut off power when winds reach a certain speed is a complex one, requiring a delicate balance between public safety, infrastructure protection, and economic considerations. While power shutdowns are necessary to prevent wildfires and accidents, utilities must actively engage with their communities, implement advanced technology, and have robust emergency plans to minimize the impact on residents and businesses. By carefully weighing the benefits and considerations, utilities can make informed decisions that prioritize the well-being of all stakeholders.