Wildfire Town Hall Meeting Q&A

In July and August of 2022 Lane Electric held town hall meetings to share details regarding the cooperative’s wildfire mitigation plan and take questions from members. The following questions came up from members in those meetings.

Red Flag Warnings + Public Power Safety Shutoff (PSPS)

What is the timeline for identifying Lane Electric’s priorities related to system improvements in areas at higher wildfire risk?

  • We have a snapshot of the fire risk in our service territory. We are now working with experts to zero in on the priority areas to deploy new equipment, which we’re able to acquire through the help of grants. This effort will evolve over the coming weeks, months, and years.

When the sensitivity of power lines is increased, will I still have power?

  • When Lane Electric sets the lines to non reclose setting it does not impact electrical service. It does increase the sensitivity of the lines so even a small bump to a power line will cause an outage. This is only done in high-risk situations.

What are the indicators that a Red Flag Warning could be issued?

  • Monitoring local weather forecasts and signing up for alerts is the best way to keep informed on potential Red Flag situations. Prior to a Red Flag Warning the National Weather Service issues a Fire Weather Watch. This informs fire departments of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to increases in wildfire activity. A Red Flag Warning is the next alert, which indicates weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior within a 24-hour period.

Will I lose power when a Red Flag Warning is issued?

  • When the National Weather Service issues a Red Flag Warning, you should be prepared to lose power. It is an indicator that a Public Power Shutoff (PSPS) could occur. Lane Electric will work to alert members prior to a PSPS but, depending on the severity of the situation, the power could go out without warning.

How will Lane Electric communicate with me when a PSPS is issued?

  • Lane Electric will use all communication channels available to us to notify members. This includes outbound calls, social media updates, media advisories, website banners and alerts.

Now is a good time to ensure your contact information is listed on your Lane Electric account. You can update, or add additional means of contact, via SmartHub or by calling Member Services at 541-484-1151.

Does a PSPS mean there is a fire or an indication of a need to evacuate?

  • A PSPS is simply a step utility companies can take. For information regarding wildfires and evacuation routes sign up for emergency alerts from Lane County. Lane Electric Cooperative is not an emergency responder. Alerts related to natural disasters and other environmental threats will come from the appropriate emergency responders.

How will I be notified in the event of an evacuation?

Local emergency responses officials, not Lane Electric, will issue an evacuation notice using several methods:

  • Reverse 911 – call to the phone numbers in the affected area.
  • Emergency Alert System – warns of imminent danger to life and property and broadcasts over various media such as radio and television.
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts – messages sent to your mobile phone during an emergency. No sign-up is required.

What if BPA issues a PSPS?

  • Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is the agency from which Lane Electric purchases wholesale power. BPA has confirmed they will enact a PSPS if they believe it is appropriate. If possible, advance warning will be given to the cooperative and we will communicate to members.

After an outage, I understand you must patrol all lines before reenergizing them and that takes time. Can members help with that process at all?

  • Unfortunately, no. Trained linemen need to have eyes on the lines. They are the only people trained to do that work. In the event of a major outage Lane Electric may request mutual aid from a neighboring utility.

Is there a concern about energy backflow when lines are repowered after an outage?

  • When power goes out and members engage generators there is a serious risk of the backflow of electricity energizing a line. A family member, community citizen, or utility worker touching an energized line could be placed in a deadly situation. It’s critical that the proper disconnect switches, or a Generlink, are installed on any generator connection. These must be up to electrical code. If you have any questions about connecting a generator to your home please call us at 541-484-1151.

Did Lane Electric follow the same protocol in 2020?

  • Lane Electric has followed this protocol for years. The only change is that the process has been formalized to report to the Public Utility Commission.

Is this plan required by law?

  • Passed in 2021, Senate Bill 762 established new electric utility system mandates to identify and assist in mitigating wildfire risks.

Other power lines, like those from Bonneville Power Administration, EWEB, and Emerald PUD, come through our communities. Do those organizations have wildfire mitigation plans?

 

Community Support

As a cooperative, you have more influence than individuals. Could you put pressure on organizations like Verizon and AT&T to improve service in rural areas?

  • If there are ways for us to use our voice in support of improving communications infrastructure, we will do so.

In parts of the Row River district there is no escape route depending on the direction of a fire. Is there anything you can do to help gain access to forest service land roads?

  • Unfortunately, no. We have shared this issue with the Lane County Emergency Manager. Please reach out to them directly with any other questions or concerns.

I’ve seen a pole or a line in my neighborhood that I’m concerned about. What should I do?

  • Anytime you see a light out, a low or down line, damaged pole, or any other potential equipment issue please reach out to the cooperative. You can call the office at 541-484-1151 or submit information via email at info@laneelectric.com.

How do you determine what lines are undergrounded? Can I ask you to underground lines in my neighborhood?

  • Where and when to underground lines is a complicated matter. Risk and environmental factors heavily play into the decision to underground. If you have questions about undergrounding in your area you can call the office to discuss.