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On the Road to Help Customers During PSPS

SCE Community Crew Vehicles provide support when power is out to guard against wildfires.

Mary Finn remembers January 2021 all too well. Southern California Edison had activated its Community and Climate Equity advisor to Simi Valley, where winds exceeding 70 mph had prompted the company to initiate a Public Safety Power Shutoff, leaving tens of thousands of customers in Ventura County and northern Los Angeles County without electricity.

Finn was part of SCE's Customer Care Outreach Team, which deploys and operates its Community Resource Centers and Community Crew Vehicles in locations impacted by PSPS events to answer customer questions about the outages and provide resources. Complicating the mission, the once-in-a-decade windstorm occurred during one of the peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic and while several wildfires were burning throughout California.

“We had more than 900 customers and their families visit our CCV,” Finn said. “It is a wonderful help to the community to give them a little bit of a home feel, water and snacks, and information about the power outage.”

VIDEO: Take a tour of an SCE Community Crew Vehicle.

SCE recently displayed the Community Crew Vehicle and its capabilities at a recent Soboba Tribe event and helped Soboba Reservation residents and their neighbors sign up for notifications of possible PSPS ahead of a presumably active 2022 fire season.

Joseph Burton, who has had his power shut off during previous PSPS impacting the reservation, was relieved to sign up for advance notifications. “This should really help us prepare the next time the winds come up, and we might lose power,” he said.

At the event, SCE also distributed firewood and customer resiliency kits containing solar-powered battery chargers, emergency lightbulbs and other items to help when the power is out.

SCE's Mary Finn discusses signing up for PSPS notifications with Soboba Reservation resident Joseph Burton.
SCE advisor Mary Finn discusses signing up for PSPS notifications with Soboba Reservation resident Joseph Burton.

“Customers love the CCVs. If you're at a site, customers sometimes bring you cookies and coffee and show how much they appreciate you, and that warms my heart,” said Debra Hunter-Bonner, SCE senior manager of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance and one of the Soboba event organizers. “I think this is an incredible program. I'm honored to be a part of it.”

“Events like this help us build trust with the customer community,” said Aaron Thomas, SCE tribal nation liaison.

SCE is spending about $1.66 billion annually on wildfire mitigation, including nearly 3,300 miles of covered conductor (power lines with a protective layer to guard against a spark igniting a wildfire) since 2018. That expedited grid hardening work has helped SCE reduce PSPS outages by more than 70% in communities frequently impacted by PSPS events based on last year’s weather and fuel conditions.

While the need for PSPS outages may have lessened, they remain a tool used as a last resort. In addition to Community Crew Vehicles, SCE contracts with 65 Community Resource Centers during extended power outages, allowing customers a place to rest, power up their mobile and medical devices, connect to Wi-Fi, use the restroom and obtain light snacks and water. All centers can also provide translation services for more than 120 languages, including American Sign Language. SCE also deploys “pop-up” centers in communities without a designated Community Resource Center.

Mary Finn looks on as SCE's Jennifer Ocampo (left) and Stephanie Manio provide a PSPS resiliency kit to Ana Espinoza.
SCE advisor Mary Finn (in cap) looks on as senior advisor Jennifer Ocampo (left) and senior specialist Stephanie Manio (center) provide a PSPS resiliency kit to Ana Espinoza.

Another example of SCE's efforts to inform and assist customers during PSPS events is the company's partnership with 211, which provides access to comprehensive social services and emergency support. SCE has partnered with 211 to provide services before, during and after PSPS events including care coordination, emergency preparedness planning, meals, overnight accommodations and transportation assistance. This relationship is focused on assisting SCE customers with Access and Functional Needs to be as prepared as possible for PSPS and emergencies.

For more information on SCE's wildfire safety efforts, visit edison.com/wildfire-safety