Preparedness Top of Mind as 2022 Wildfire Threat Grows
Last year, windy weather and parched vegetation led Southern California Edison to implement targeted Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) to prevent its equipment from being the source of ignition for a wildfire. Though improvements over the last three years have reduced the number of PSPS events and customers affected by these shutoffs, the continuing drought in California means PSPS outages may again be a reality this year.
In anticipation of the upcoming wildfire season, SCE continues to improve the grid and make operational improvements to reduce the impacts of PSPS shutoffs. It has also spent the first half of the year preparing and collaborating with public safety partners to assist them in their resiliency efforts.
Though SCE uses PSPS as a last resort to protect communities from the threat of wildfire, the outages impact public safety entities that serve these communities and can affect critical infrastructure facilities, such as local water agencies. Preparing for planned and unplanned outages is necessary to avoid disrupting these vital services.
At a recent SCE workshop, Allen Paneral from the El Capitan Mutual Water Company in Santa Barbara County said, “We have limited resources compared to some of the larger water agencies to address outage resiliency. The partnership with SCE and the efforts to keep us informed of incidents and the work completed on surrounding circuits has been above and beyond in helping us prepare to serve our customers.”
In addition to providing direct outreach and workshops with critical infrastructure customers, SCE also offers resources to help residential customers prepare for PSPS outages.
SCE has a robust training program for the teams who manage PSPS events, including a dedicated Incident Management Team and hundreds of employees who serve as surge resources for larger events. All of these employees undergo intensive online and instructor-led training and participate in functional exercises that simulate wildfire threat conditions.
In 2022, SCE has trained over 400 employees from across the company to be activated to provide PSPS support, including year-round monitoring of weather and fire conditions, operations support to manage event decision-making and the teams needed to provide timely notification to customers and public safety partners.
“Resources from many parts of the company, including our electrical field crews and customer support staff, support PSPS events and help mitigate the impact of possible shutoffs on our customers,” said Cullen Armet, senior advisor with SCE’s Business Resiliency unit.
“This year, we continued to incorporate extensive participation from state regulatory, emergency management and public safety partners in our exercises. This participation enabled us to train together and ensure we are prepared to keep communities safe from wildfire and that all stakeholders have the information they need to manage the potential public safety impacts of PSPS shutoffs,” Armet added.
Improvements in situational awareness, equipment inspections and vegetation management continue to help reduce wildfire risk and the need for PSPS shutoffs. And while utility staff prepares to manage the dangerous fire weather conditions, the ongoing work to strengthen the grid continues. Expedited work on circuits, such as installing covered conductor (overhead wire with a protective covering), continues on the circuits most affected by past PSPS events. Since 2018, SCE has installed nearly 3,300 miles of covered conductor, including almost 300 miles in the first three months of this year.
SCE’s wildfire mitigation page provides additional information related to the company’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan for this year.
For more information on SCE’s wildfire safety efforts, visit Edison.com/wildfire-safety.