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Electric power safety

Learn how to turn off your electricity in an emergency, what to do if your power goes out and how to report an outage. Also, review generator safety tips.

What you need to know first

Turning off electricity in an emergency
Use the main power switch on the main electrical panel to turn off the electric supply to your residence.
What to do if your power goes out
Check your circuit breakers and fuse boxes and see if your neighbors are affected before calling PG&E at 1-800-743-5002 to report the outage.
Stay away from downed power lines
If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and stay away. Call 9-1-1 immediately to report its location, and then call PG&E at 1-800-743-5002.
Turning off your power
  • Main electrical switch
    • In an emergency, use the main power switch on the main electrical panel to turn off the electric panel to turn off the electric supply to your entire residence.
  • Blown fuses
    • If a fuse blows, disconnect or turn off the equipment that may have caused the problem.
    • Always shut off the main electric switch before replacing a fuse.
    • Locate the fuse box or circuit breaker for your residence.
    • Blown fuses must be replaced, not repaired. If you do not have correct size on hand, do not replace a blown fuse with one of higher amperage.
  • Resetting circuit breakers
    • After turning off or unplugging equipment on the circuit, push the switch firmly to the off position, then back on. If the overload is cleared the electricity will come back on.
    • If your circuit breakers trip off repeatedly, there could be a problem with the equipment on that circuit. If the equipment is unplugged but the circuit breaker trips off again, call an electrician.
  • If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and stay away. Call 9-1-1 immediately to report its location, and then call PG&E at 1-800-743-5002.
  • Do not touch anyone or anything in contact with a downed power line.
  • Keep children and pets away from fallen electric wires.
  • Do not drive over a fallen power line.
  • Stay away from flooded areas and downed trees during and after a storm. These areas could be hiding an energized power line.

If a power line touches your car

  • If you are in a car when a power line falls on it, STAY INSIDE. The safest place is in your car. The ground around your car may be energized.

  • Honk the horn, roll down your window and yell for help.

  • Warn others to stay away. Anyone who touches the equipment or ground around the vehicle may be injured.

  • Use your cell phone to call 9-1-1.

  • Fire department, police and PG&E workers will tell you when it is safe to get out of the vehicle.

  • If there is a fire and you must exit a vehicle that has contacted power lines:

    • Remove loose items of clothing.
    • Keep your hands at your sides and jump clear of the vehicle so you are not touching the car when your feet hit the ground.
    • Keep both feet close together and shuffle away from the vehicle without picking up your feet.
  • Use a cell phone or hard-wired phone. Cordless phones do not work without electricity.
  • Use battery-operated flashlights, not candles, which pose a fire hazard.
  • Unplug or turn off all electric and heat-producing appliances (e.g. air conditioners, washers and dryers, ovens, stoves, irons) to avoid overloading circuits. Overloaded circuits can be a fire hazard once power is restored.
  • Unplug televisions and computers that were in use when the power went out.
  • Leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed, and place extra containers of ice inside to preserve food. A full freezer will remain colder longer.
  • Notify your alarm company if you have an alarm system. Equipment can be affected by outages.
  • Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.
  • Reset clocks, thermostats and other programmed equipment after power is restored.
  • Before starting your generator, carefully read and follow all the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid serious harm to yourself and others.
  • Make sure the total electric load on your generator will not exceed the manufacturer’s rating.
  • Make sure your generator’s exhaust will vent safely.
  • Use the lowest wattage light bulbs that provide a safe level of light. The greater the load on your generator, the more fuel it will use.
  • Keep cords away so they don’t present a tripping hazard, especially in dimly lit doorways or halls. Never run cords under rugs or carpets where heat might build up or damaged cords may go unnoticed.
  • Extension cords must be properly sized to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires or damage to equipment.

NOTE: You are responsible for any injuries or property damage from an improperly installed or operated generator.

Permanent standby generators

  • When a generator is permanently connected to a customer’s electric system, it energizes the building’s wiring. This type of installation requires a device that prevents the generator from being connected to PG&E’s power lines.

NOTE: Only a qualified professional, such as a licensed electric contractor, should install a permanent standby generator.

Portable generators

  • Portable generators are designed to connect only to select appliances or lamps. Portable generators should never be connected directly to a building’s wiring system.

NOTE: The law prohibits customers with a permanent or portable generator from connecting it to another power source, such as PG&E’s power lines. If you own and operate a generator, you are responsible for making sure that electricity from your unit cannot “back feed” or flow into PG&E’s power lines. If you do not use your generator correctly, you risk damaging your property and endangering your life and the lives of PG&E line workers who may be working on power lines in your area.