SCE, Hospitals Prepare for Strong Weather Event Amid Pandemic

The utility is working with hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and facilities where vaccines are being stored and distributed to ensure safety measures are in place.
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Stories : Safety

SCE, Hospitals Prepare for Strong Weather Event Amid Pandemic

The utility is working with hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and facilities where vaccines are being stored and distributed to ensure safety measures are in place.

As a once-in-a-10-year windstorm blows through the Southland amid a COVID-19 pandemic surge and efforts to distribute vaccines, Southern California Edison is working closely with hospitals and facilities storing vaccines to make sure they have plans in place to respond to wind-driven power shutoffs.

Dozens of SCE account managers reached out to hospital and medical facility customers over the past few days in preparation for winds that in some parts of the service area could reach upward of 75-90 mph in near-record dry conditions through Wednesday.

SCE worked closely with commercial customers providing medical services and with lists provided by counties and Cal OES to identify hospitals, including those treating COVID-19 patients, and vaccine storage and provider locations that might be at risk for outages. Outreach has now been made to hundreds of facilities to ensure resiliency plans and staffing are in place.

Hospitals are ready to deploy backup power and, in some cases, SCE is also working to shift some of the facilities to less vulnerable circuits to help avoid possible shutoffs.
Hospitals are ready to deploy backup power and, in some cases, SCE is also working to shift some of the facilities to less vulnerable circuits to help avoid possible shutoffs.

Hospitals are ready to deploy backup power as part of their mandated resiliency plans and, in some cases, SCE is also working to shift some of the facilities to less vulnerable circuits to help avoid possible shutoffs.

“We are working to support the communities we serve during these unprecedented times and these abnormal weather conditions,” said Kelly Garcia, SCE principal manager who is helping to lead the outreach effort. “We realize the current strain on our healthcare system, and we are working with our customers to help ensure the safety of our communities.”

“As our hospitals continue to contend with a raging surge of COVID-19 patients, our continued partnership with SCE has never been more valued and appreciated,” said Mark Gamble, chief of Advocacy and Operations at the Hospital Association of Southern California. “The ongoing support and communication between SCE and HASC has minimized the impacts of PSPS events on hospitals during the worst public health crisis in generations.”

Five of the six-largest wildfires in California’s history took place last year and fires continue to burn throughout the state. Average rainfall totals across Central and Southern California remain 50%-75% below normal for this time of the year.

We are working to support the communities we serve during these unprecedented times and these abnormal weather conditions. We realize the current strain on our healthcare system, and we are working with our customers to help ensure the safety of our communities.”

Kelly Garcia, SCE Principal Manager

SCE’s wildfire mitigation efforts include the installation of hundreds of weather stations and wildfire cameras, predictive technologies, enhanced overhead inspections and insulated power lines. SCE uses Public Safety Power Shutoffs to help reduce the risk of a spark from electrical equipment starting a wildfire, especially during high-wind events over very dry areas.

“We have learned a lot over the past two years, including hardening our system, so we can be more targeted in conducting needed PSPS,” said Brandon Tolentino, SCE principal manager and part of the outreach team. “We routinely segment circuits to reduce the number of customers impacted and to pick up as many customers as we can as quickly and as safely as possible.”

SCE compartmentalizes local circuits into sections to minimize the number of customers impacted should a shutoff be needed due to extreme winds. While extended outages are possible for some customers, SCE makes every effort to temporarily restore power to affected customers, even for a short period of time, as breaks in the weather conditions permit and it is safe to reenergize.

For updates and the latest information on PSPS, customers can visit: sce.com/psps. Customers can be notified of a PSPS event by email, phone or text alert. They can also update their SCE contact information and sign up for potential PSPS alerts at sce.com/psps or by calling 800-655-4555.

SCE reminds customers that if they see a downed power line, stay away and call SCE at 800-611-1911 or call 911. Customers may report or inquire about outages at 800-611-1911. For information on outages, customers can check sce.com/outages or visit twitter.com/sce and facebook.com/sce.

Background on PSPS:

  • SCE does not shut off power based only on weather forecasts. Decisions are based on conditions observed in the affected areas.  
  • SCE crews conduct pre-patrols of circuits in affected areas before a forecasted wind event. Plans are in place to minimize the number of customers affected, should conditions warrant a shutoff.
  • In addition to real-time weather monitoring, SCE crews are actively patrolling circuits during PSPS conditions to provide additional information about actual conditions on the ground.
  • SCE notifies local and state emergency management officials and first responder agencies in advance of PSPS events as well as providing 48-hour advance notices to customers whenever possible.
  • Should a shutoff occur, SCE will attempt to restore power within 24 hours after the weather event and once crews have determined it is safe to re-energize.
  • For customers who are deenergized due to PSPS or wind-related outages, final restoration efforts will begin once the winds abate and SCE line crews can inspect the lines to ensure they are safe to reenergize. Helicopter or foot patrols may be needed in some hard-to-access areas, which could delay restoration.

Power Outage Safety Tips

  • If you see a downed power line, do not touch it or anything in contact with it. Call 911 immediately.
  • Power outages in the area may impact traffic signals, so motorists should use extreme caution and treat all intersections as four-way stops.
  • Remember to check emergency supplies to be sure you have a battery-operated radio, flashlight and fresh batteries.
  • Use flashlights instead of candles to avoid fire hazards in your home or business.
  • If you are in a vehicle with a fallen power line on it, stay in the vehicle and remain calm until help arrives. It is OK to use your cellphone to call 911. If you must leave the vehicle, remember to exit away from downed power lines and exit by jumping from the vehicle and landing with both feet together. You must not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then proceed away from the vehicle by shuffling and not picking up your feet until you are several yards away.
  • If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it, using a heavy-duty extension cord. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews. Please consult the manufacturer’s manual for operating the generator.