Hawaiian Electric’s Public Safety Power Shutoff program to launch July 1 in effort to lessen wildfire risk

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PC: Hawaiian Electric Company / Facebook image grab from live stream announcement
  • PSPS Map for Maui County. PC: Hawaiian Electric Company
  • PSPS Map for Oʻahu. PC: Hawaiian Electric Company
  • PSPS Map for Hawaiʻi Island. PC: Hawaiian Electric Company
  • What happens before, during and after Public Safety Power Shutoff. PC: Hawaiian Electric Company
  • What happens during a PSPS event. PC: Hawaiian Electric Company

Hawaiian Electric Company unveiled details today regarding its Public Safety Power Shutoff or PSPS program for lessening the risk of wildfires in Hawaiʻi, which will launch on July 1.

As part of this program, Hawaiian Electric may preemptively shut off power in certain areas it has identified as high risk during periods of forecast high winds and dry conditions. This program is the company’s last line of defense to keep communities safe and may result in extended power outages.

Representatives with Hawaiian Electric say they will be installing 54 weather stations across their system. This is aimed at limiting the impacts and possibly the duration of PSPS events, by helping the company make better informed decisions.

The program will start in areas that Hawaiian Electric has determined present higher wildfire risk factors. In the future, Hawaiian Electric intends to expand the program to cover all high-risk areas served by Hawaiian Electric. This program is described as just one component of Hawaiian Electric’s three-phase Wildfire Safety Strategy.

“Wildfires have been recognized as a top hazard facing Hawaiʻi. Hawaiian Electric has responded with a multi-pronged approach to mitigating wildfire risk. One component is proactively shutting off power, which is a last line of defense to protect the community. We understand shutting off power can create hardships for affected customers, so this is not something we take lightly,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president and chief operations officer.


The program will start in the following areas:

  • Oʻahu: Waiʻanae, Mākaha, Nānākuli, Māʻili, and Ka‘ena Point (approximately 2,700 customers)
  • Hawaiʻi Island: North Hawai‘i between Kohala (below 18 mile marker) and Waikoloa, in West Hawai‘i between Kalaoa and Hōlualoa, and between Mauna Kea Access Road and Waiki‘i Ranch (approximately 19,300 customers)
  • Maui County: West Maui, Upcountry, parts of Central and South Maui, and parts of central Molokaʻi (approximately 26,100 customers)

These initial starting areas have a combination of risk factors for wildfires, including exposure to strong winds, dry conditions, vegetation prone to wildfires, and historically higher rates of wildfires. Over time, Hawaiian Electric will expand this program to all high-risk areas on the islands that it serves. For more information and maps, call Hawaiian Electric’s PSPS hotline at 1-844-483-8666 toll-free or go to hawaiianelectric.com/PSPS.

A PSPS will only be activated in an area if weather data, including statements from the National Weather Service, indicate conditions for heightened wildfire risk. These conditions may include strong winds, low humidity and dry vegetation. Combined, these factors can result in downed trees or flying debris contacting power lines and damaging electrical infrastructure, which can create the risk of wildfires.

Before activating a PSPS, Hawaiian Electric will notify the public and coordinate with government officials, first responders and emergency response agencies. Hawaiian Electric will provide public notifications through news releases, social media, online outage maps and updates to its website. If weather conditions change suddenly, shutoff may occur with little or no notice.

During a PSPS activation, power will remain shut off so long as hazardous weather conditions persist. When the weather improves, power lines must be inspected and any damage must be repaired before service can be restored. This may involve ground crews and aerial inspections using helicopters and drones. This process may result in extended outages lasting several hours, possibly even days depending on the location and extent of any damage.


Hawaiian Electric has coordinated with stakeholders from across government and the private sector, including emergency response agencies, government officials, essential service providers and businesses, to ensure public awareness and safety during a PSPS activation.

Customers on life support with special medical needs are urged to prepare now for the possibility of extended power outages.

Hawaiian Electric asks those customers to provide their contact information to receive future notifications in advance of a PSPS by submitting an online Medical Needs Communications Form at hawaiianelectric.com/PSPS.

Looking ahead, Hawaiian Electric plans to continue to enhance and refine its PSPS program to make it more targeted and effective. These plans currently include implementing additional enhanced technology, weather forecasting targeting high-risk areas, customer education, plans for backup for critical customers, and community hubs and resources.

The PSPS program is just one component of Hawaiian Electric’s three-phase Wildfire Safety Strategy. As part of the first phase, the company has already implemented changes in high-risk areas, including:

  • During hazardous weather conditions, deploying spotters to strategic locations in risk areas to watch for ignition.
  • If a fault or disturbance is detected on a circuit, automatically shutting off power lines in risk areas until crews visually confirm that it is safe to restore power. This may result in longer outages in some areas, including outages that last overnight.

The second phase includes work that is underway, or will soon be underway, to harden the grid against a variety of extreme weather events and reduce potential hazards. That work includes:

  • Expanding inspections of poles and lines, using helicopters, drones, infrared and ground inspection.
  • Addressing sag and tension in lines and adding spacers to reduce the potential for sparking.
  • Switching from single-strand copper to aluminum wire or covered conductor in some areas.
  • Replacing wood poles with steel poles in some areas.
  • Continuing vegetation management efforts adjacent to power lines.
  • Using fault current indicators, quickly identifying the location of faults.
  • Installing cameras and weather sensors in critical areas.

Additionally, Hawaiian Electric is advancing work on its $190 million grid resilience plan to harden against wildfires, hurricanes, tsunami and flooding, and to adapt to climate change impacts. Half of this multi-year program is to be paid by the federal government with the other half matched by customers.

The third phase will be longer term and will use a variety of tools to address continuing and emerging threats from extreme weather and climate change. Some of those tools are expected to include:

  • Providing more precision in wildfire-focused weather forecasting and risk-modeling.
  • Undergrounding power lines in strategic at-risk areas.
  • Expanding use of covered power lines, fast-acting fuses and fire-resistant poles and equipment.
  • Seeking support for expanded hazard tree removal, wider rights-of-way, and rights of access for clearing vegetation that threatens equipment.
  • Ongoing collaboration with fire departments and emergency management agencies to refine the overall strategy.
  • Seeking more federal funding for wildfire defense programs.

For more information about Hawaiian Electric’s wildfire safety strategy, go to: hawaiianelectric.com/wildfiresafety.

Some frequently asked questions and answers are posted below:

What is PSPS and why is it needed? A PSPS, short for Public Safety Power Shutoff, is a process electric utilities use to deactivate power in high-risk conditions for safety purposes. We only take this step as a last line of defense to help protect communities and property during periods of heightened wildfire risk. A PSPS may be triggered by extreme weather conditions, such as strong winds and low humidity, posing risk such as damage to power lines, airborne debris impacting power infrastructure, and surrounding dry vegetation that could exacerbate wildfire hazards.

How much advance notice will be given for PSPS events? Hawaiian Electric reports it will try to provide as much advance notice as possible. In a best-case scenario, we will send a warning notification 24-48 hours before a PSPS begins. However, if conditions are suddenly hazardous, HECO may need to shut off power with little or no notice.

How will I be notified of a PSPS event? Customers will receive PSPS notifications via emails, phone calls, texts, social media updates, mobile app notifications, and news releases. It is vital to maintain up-to-date contact information and download our mobile app for push notifications.

How long would a PSPS last? The duration of a PSPS will depend on the duration of extreme weather conditions and heightened risk. Once conditions improve, HECO teams will begin the restoration process and inspect any equipment for damage before reenergizing power.

How often will a PSPS occur? PSPS frequency varies, depending upon the severity of seasonal weather conditions.

Staying updated in real time: View the Oʻahu outage map to keep up with the status of a PSPS and sign up to receive alerts when updates are released. You will see “PSPS” as the reason for the outage on the map. For Maui County and Hawaiʻi Island, updates will be posted on the HECO website and shared through news releases.

What if I have special medical needs that require electricity? If you or someone in your care has a condition that requires special medication or life support systems, or if medications require refrigeration, HECO recommends that these individuals contact their doctor or pharmacist for information on how to handle emergencies and power outages.

Prepare in advance for power outages by reviewing HECO guidance for scheduled power outages and making a plan to address medical requirements. This may involve ensuring readiness of a backup generator for electric medical equipment and maintaining a supply kit with a cooler for medicine storage. Share plans with family and neighbors for additional support. Sign up for notifications on the HECO website at hawaiianelectric.com/medicalneedsalerts.


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