SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As part of its efforts to prepare customers and communities for the growing threat of wildfire, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) crews and contractors have been conducting drills in high fire-threat areas to practice restoring power after a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). As part of the PSPS program, if gusty winds and dry conditions, combined with a heightened fire risk, threaten a portion of the electric system, PG&E may need to turn off power for public safety.
To help prepare and respond quickly during a PSPS, crews have conducted 18 drills over the past few months. These efforts have focused on coordinating teams, inspecting electric lines for damage, and quickly restoring power. These restoration drills took place across Northern and Central California.
These efforts are part of PG&E’s enhanced and expanded Community Wildfire Safety Program, implemented following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires to further reduce wildfire risks and help keep customers and communities safe. PG&E did not turn power off to customers during the simulations, though nearby residents may have noticed crews, trucks and even helicopters in their neighborhoods.
“We know how much our customers rely on electricity,” said Aaron Johnson, PG&E Vice President of Electric Operations. “If we need to turn off power for safety, it is critical that our teams are trained and prepared so that we can safely and efficiently restore power to our customers.”
The full-scale drills helped PG&E crews and contractors with the challenges they often face during inspections. In the event of a PSPS, after the weather has passed and it is safe to do so, PG&E crews will be deployed via vehicle, foot and air to visually inspect the lines which prompted the PSPS event for damage and to restore power safely. Some locations require workers to travel on narrow access roads and, in locations with no vehicle access, crews also might need to hike in remote and mountainous areas to inspect equipment. Where equipment damage is found, crews will work to isolate the damaged area from the rest of the system so other parts of the system can be restored while the necessary repairs are performed.
“This is all about PG&E doing more, and with greater urgency, to adapt to and address the growing threat of wildfires and extreme weather,” said Mark Quinlan, Director of Wildfire Operations. “We are asking our customers and communities to prepare for the potential that we will need to turn off power for safety. We are doing everything we can to prepare, as well.”
The PSPS program includes all electric lines that pass through high fire-threat areas – both distribution and transmission. Because the energy system relies on distribution and transmission power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions, any of PG&E’s more than 5 million electric customers could have their power shut off, even if they do not live or work in an area experiencing high winds or other extreme weather conditions.
How our customers can prepare
As part of these preparedness efforts, PG&E is asking customers to:
- Update their contact information at pge.com/mywildfirealerts or by calling 1-866-743-6589 during normal business hours. PG&E will use this information to alert customers through automated calls, texts, and emails, when possible, prior to, and during, a PSPS.
- Plan for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power.
- Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
- Build or restock your emergency kit with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
- Keep in mind elderly family members, younger children and pets. Information and tips including a safety plan checklist are available at pge.com/wildfiresafety.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com and pge.com/news.
Following the wildfires in 2017 and 2018, some of the changes included in this document are contemplated as additional precautionary measures intended to further reduce future wildfire risk.