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Wildfires, air quality and power supply: an update

Category: News & Updates

Dear Stanford community,

As those of you here in the Bay Area are all too aware, wildfires, poor air quality, unpredictable weather and power grid challenges are continuing to affect our region. I am writing this weekend to share some brief updates on these issues with all of you.

First and most importantly, the thoughts of our Stanford community continue to be with everyone affected by the wildfires across California, including those in our community who have been evacuated from fire areas such as the CZU Lightning Complex in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the SCU Lightning Complex to the east and south.

Stanford is working to support our employees who have been affected by the fires, and we have reached out to more than 1,000 employees who are either in the affected areas or live nearby. If you need assistance, please be in touch: Contact your HR manager or supervisor and let them know what resources you may need. We are continuing to work on additional ways of extending support to those who have been displaced by these terrible fires. Additional information related to the fires is available on the Cardinal at Work website.

As a result of the fires, air quality in the area around Stanford has continued to fluctuate this weekend. Please continue to follow the guidance shared via AlertSU last week to protect your health when the local air quality deteriorates. This guidance is on emergency.stanford.edu, and details and training materials are available from Stanford Environmental Health & Safety at https://ehs.stanford.edu/topic/general-workplace-safety/protection-from-wildfire-smoke. Official air quality readings for the local area are available at airnow.gov.

The National Weather Service is warning of the potential for thunderstorms later today and Monday, with gusty winds and lightning that could spark new wildfires. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for the Bay Area. Given the effects of last week’s storm, we want to be prepared, including with respect to the potential for power outages.

As brief background, electricity is delivered to the main Stanford campus from PG&E through two major transmission lines. One of these lines runs through the Santa Cruz Mountains. PG&E has said that it currently does not expect to initiate Public Safety Power Shutoffs due to the incoming weather system, and we are not anticipating any power interruptions at Stanford. However, based on the unpredictability of the wildfire and weather situation, we want to share general precautionary information about the potential effects of power supply disruption.

If Stanford receives advance notice of a power disruption, we will notify you through the AlertSU system. But power supply also can be affected with little or no advance notice. Land, Buildings & Real Estate has posted on the web a document that summarizes its Electrical Curtailment Plan in the event of a power supply interruption. We especially encourage building managers and those responsible for sensitive laboratory research or equipment to review this information and take any precautions. 

The document illustrates how a loss of power supply could produce effects on building cooling systems on the main campus equivalent to a Stage 3 or Stage 4 Chilled Water Curtailment, depending on the amount of advance notice we receive. Some campus facilities would retain power and cooling to support life safety and critical operations. The document also provides tips for preparing for such a scenario. In the event of an extended outage, Residential & Dining Enterprises also has contingency plans to continue providing meal service for students and to support students living in campus housing.

Again, we are hopeful that it will not be necessary to act on this information, but we provide it in case it is. We will continue to keep you informed of any developments as they arise.

I am grateful to the many people across our university who are working tirelessly to support our students, faculty, staff and postdocs through the multiple challenges of these days. Thank you for all you are doing for Stanford, and for the care and concern you are extending to one another.

Sincerely,

Marc Tessier-Lavigne