Be prepared

Healdsburg Unified School District is preparing for possible public safety power shutoffs.

Along with several other Sonoma County schools the Healdsburg Unified School District is preparing school protocols for the event of a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in Healdsburg.

In a letter to district families Healdsburg Unified School District Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel said in the event of a planned power shutoff class will be canceled. If a power outage occurs mid-day then school may continue on a case-by-case basis.

The letter came prior to forecasted strong offshore wind gusts and low humidity on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 that prompted a fire weather watch from the U.S. National Weather Service and the notice of a planned PG&E power shutoff for 66,289 Sonoma County PG&E customers and many North Bay communities.

“Hopefully we will know before so we can notify families. PG&E is really endeavoring to let us know beforehand,” Vanden Heuvel said.

According to PG&E the utility aims to give a 24 to 48 hour notice prior to a shutoff based forecasted weather predictions such as wind and humidity level.

In a July 2 article on wildfire safety PG&E Spokesperson Deanna Contreras told the Tribune that the decision to conduct a shutoff could be determined by a variety of factors.

“There are a lot of different factors, there’s not one magic formula, not one special algorithm where it meets all of these criteria … But we take a look at different things like whether or not it’s a red flag warning day, if there’s low humidity levels, generally below 20%, if it’s very windy with sustained winds at 25 mph or wind gusts at 45 mph or higher, so we take a look at all that. Plus, is it dry on the ground, what are the observations on the ground?” Contreras explained.

Vanden Heuvel said if a power shutoff is likely the district will be in “constant communication” with the city of Healdsburg via City Manager David Mickaelian when it comes to monitoring the situation if a de-energizing is likely.

The city of Healdsburg operates its own power lines, however the lines rely on PG&E’s transmission lines according to Vanden Heuvel. According to a post from city officials on the city’s Facebook page, Healdsburg itself is less likely to be affected.

“At this time, City of Healdsburg electric customers will not be impacted by PG&E’s potential PSPS. However, if PG&E decides to shut off transmission lines (not just distribution lines), Healdsburg would be affected. To reiterate: At this time, Healdsburg will not be affected,” the Tuesday Oct. 8 afternoon post read.

In terms of communicating with parents Vanden Heuvel said the goal is to notify affected parties of a closure “as soon as reasonably possible” after receiving notice of an upcoming power outage.

However in some cases, this may come on a short notice.

If the power were to shutoff during school without notice classes may continue depending on factors such as facility function with bathrooms, heating and air, transportation and road conditions.

Power would only be restored if the fire weather conditions cease and after lines and systems are inspected, which could result in a 24 to 48 hour wait time for power restoration.

For making up days Vanden Heuvel said there are two embedded professional development days for staff that could be used for make up days if needed and if negotiated with the teacher’s union, the Healdsburg Area Teachers Association.

“We go to school one day longer than required by the law so one day could be used for that,” Vanden Heuvel added.

If schools are closed for several days then the state will determine if additional days will need to be made up.

Vanden Heuvel said it is a lot to be prepared for but that it is better to be prepared.

He said in all cases student safety will be the top priority.


For additional questions regarding school site closures contact your child’s school site administrator.

For PG&E public safety power shutoff alerts and notifications, visit here.

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