Understanding Outages

What you need to know when the lights go out

Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) members count on us to make sure power is there when they flip the switch. We work hard day in and day out to make sure our members have reliable and safe electric service. However, outages happen, and they seem to happen at the most inopportune time.

The Basics

The most common cause of outages are weather-related events, whether a snowstorm or a fire forces PSREC to disconnect power.

Wildlife and vegetation can also cause outages, such as an animal or tree in the lines.

But it’s not just nature that can cause outages. Human error–such as members of the public accidentally digging through underground power equipment–can lead to outages. Sometimes power is out for a few minutes. Other times, power is out for hours. PSREC works around the clock to ensure members have power restored as quickly as possible.

Short or momentary power outages can be caused by a power line protection device, known as a recloser, trying to clear the power line of debris by momentarily opening and closing the power circuit.

Doing so offers the opportunity for objects to clear from the power line during the pause in electrical flow. Substation equipment and power line protection devices are programmed to try to self-clear before direct intervention from a PSREC crew is needed.

During fire season, these protection devices are disabled to reduce the risk of electrical equipment causing a fire. This can cause outages to last longer due to the need to send crews to investigate the outage before re-energizing the line.

Some outages originate outside of PSREC’s system. Plumas-Sierra members have experienced an increase in outages due to Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

During summer and fall months, PG&E has and will continue to de-energize electric lines that pass through high fire-threat areas. A backup feed that comes to members from NV Energy is able to help support PSREC’s system. However, this backup isn’t always available.

Reporting an Outage

The quickest way to alert PSREC of an outage is to call (530) 832-4261. Press “1” when listening to the menu of options.

When using the outage hotline, please report any information that may help PSREC crews pinpoint the trouble location. That could be an address where a tree is on the line or the location of a vehicle accident that involves a power pole.

You can also report an outage by logging on to your SmartHub account or with the SmartHub app. You can also view PSREC’s outage map on our website or through your SmartHub account.

Restoring Power

When an outage is reported, our outage management system directs the information to PSREC line crews. Line crews are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. PSREC has operations facilities in both Portola and Milford.

Restoring power during normal operating hours can be relatively simple, depending on the cause. An operations supervisor learns of an outage from the outage management system and locates the closest crew. The supervisor gives crew members information about the outage to ensure they are equipped with the correct equipment. Obtaining the proper equipment and preparing the crew typically takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the situation.

Once the crew is on-site, the outage restoration time depends on the extent of the damage. Each situation is different.

Outages that occur after hours are handled differently. Crews must live within a 30-minute commute of their operations facility in both our northern and southern regions. This creates a baseline response time before arriving on an outage scene. Crew trucks stay stocked with common materials needed to fix most outages. However, a response may take longer when critical equipment is required.

The Plumas-Sierra Board of Directors and staff are committed to the ongoing prevention of outages. We assure members that PSREC is continually learning and adapting to emergency power situations so power can be restored as safely and quickly as possible.

PSREC reduces outages by keeping lines clear of trees, offering tree-trimming programs, updating operating systems, and continuing to train staff to promptly handle situations. PSREC encourages members to report anything they feel is out of the ordinary or a vegetation-related issue.

With advances in technology and continued preventive measures, we can expect to see continued improvements.

View the Powering Up After an Outage (PDF).

PSREC sends outage information via text, email, and social media. To sign up for text notifications, login to SmartHub and set your notification preferences. Through the SmartHub app, you can report outages, and view the latest outage information on PSREC’s outage map.