aCrisis Communications

Crisis Communications

The difference between an emergency and a disaster is that in a disaster there are not enough First Responders to help everyone who needs help.

During an emergency such as a power outage lasting a few hours,

  • Call Electric Operations Dispatch at 650-496-6914 to report the outage via the automated system. You need to call using the phone/number associated with your utility account in order for the system to detect your location.
  • If you need to talk to a system operator, you can follow the phone tree prompts & an operator will answer if they’re not tied up on the line with other callers or busy trying to troubleshoot the outage & dispatch crews.
  • Online, the best place to find immediate updates on power outages is the City’s Outage Map.   This map won’t provide the cause or estimated restoration time, but it shows you where the power is out & for how many people. For road closures check out the City Road Closures Map.
  • The City’s social media accounts are updated as soon as possible.  You can sign up for Twitter, Nixle or Nextdoor and get notifications as events develop. We strongly encourage you to check one of these links (or ask a tech-savvy person to do so) when you need to know what is happening.
  • Note that the City’s webpages are usually updated only during office hours.

Communications from the City during or after a disaster such as an earthquake, wildfire, etc.

  • Make sure you have signed up for alerts via AlertSCC.
  • After an emergency or disaster if cellphones and internet are still working you can find the latest news at or  You don’t need to sign on Twitter to follow.
  • The City will also push out information via Nextdoor, Nixle, Facebook.
  • Have a battery-powered, solar powered or hand cranked radio in your emergency kit.  If the internet and phones are not working, the City will inform residents about extent of damage, safety measures and other news at KZSU, 90.1 FM. Tune to KCBS, 740AM/106.9 FM for county information.
  • Be familiar with and, if possible, volunteer for the Emergency Services Volunteer program. These Volunteers can link to the City via handheld radios (ham, MURS, etc.). Volunteers can inform the City of damages and needs and can also pass on to neighbors, information from the City or other neighborhoods.
  • If necessary and available, Emergency Volunteers and/or First Responders will go door to door and/or use megaphones to alert/inform neighbors.
  • For greater coverage, if safe to do so, all able persons should check on their two next-door neighbors and any neighbor who might need extra help.
  • It is important to note that no one communication system is capable of reaching everyone, everywhere, every time. Each method has its strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. As a result, Palo Alto utilizes multiple delivery methods to ensure a greater coverage of intended recipients, and redundancy in the event of failures.

Communicating with family

  • Have a communications plan for you and your family.
  • Landlines might work even if cellphones do not.
  • Family members may be able to get in touch with an out-of-town contact when the local lines are overloaded.
  • Texting often works when other forms of communication don’t. If you plan to text, make sure all family phones enable texts and that each person is comfortable writing and reading texts.
  • You can charge cellphones and cellphone external batteries by using solar chargers or charge in your car via an adaptor.
  • If you do not have a mobile phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Safe and Well features in the ReadySCC, Red Cross, Facebook or Nextdoor apps to notify family and friends of your status.
  • If phones don’t work and you arrive at a pre-agreed upon meeting place but need to move, leave a note or a pre-arranged token to inform family members that you were there.

City of Palo Alto Contact Information



  • Text Messages to Cell Phones
  • Voice Messages to Cell Phones, Landlines
  • Email

Public Information Hotline:  650 329 2420

Police Department 

Emergency number 911

Non-emergency: 650 329 2413

Social Media

Palo Alto Fire 

Office of Emergency Services

Palo Alto Utilities 

  • Emergencies: 911
  • Twitter: @PAUtilities
  • Facebook: @PaloAltoUtilities
  • Electrical outages:       (650) 496-6914
  • Water, gas or wastewater problems: (650) 329-2579
  • Street Light Outage:     (650) 496-6914
  • Power outage map 

Public Works 


  • Road Conditions 1-800 427 7623

Santa Clara Valley Water District

  • Flood Safe Hotline 1-888-439-6624

Office of Human Services

Citywide Social Media: Nextdoor

Local News Stations: 90.1 FM