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Credit: Jean Anderson

SCE, Red Cross Partner for El Niño, Outage Preparedness Workshop

Business owners learn that during El Niño or other major events electricity could be out for several days.
By Mary Ann Milbourn

This is one in a series of stories on how Southern California Edison is preparing for the El Niño storm season.

Preparing for disasters is a priority for the American Red Cross, so Amy Estey saw hosting a joint forum on El Niño and outage preparedness with Southern California Edison as an opportunity.

“El Niño is a teachable moment, when people are looking for information,” said the Red Cross regional manager for preparedness and resiliency programs in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “And everyone wants to know about power outages.”

About 50 SCE business customers attended the recent Santa Ana event, which covered subjects ranging from what causes power outages to preparations for a major storm where power could be out for an extended period.

Steven Bisbing, who works with the Orange County Council of Boy Scouts of America, said he knew a lot about outages but learned about something totally unexpected: metallic balloons.

Last year, SCE crews responded to 924 power outages because of metallic balloons entangled in power lines.

“I had no idea metallic balloons could be such a big problem,” said Bisbing, who made a note to pass that warning along to his scouts.

Steve Oda, SCE’s Business Resiliency Operations senior manager, said SCE has built in a lot of redundancy to reroute power and limit repair outages. But during El Niño, when widespread rain and windstorms arrive back to back, the power grid can be affected.

“In these large, large events, the outage isn’t going to be four hours — it could be for days,” Oda said.

Tomaso Giannelli, an SCE project manager for Outage Communications, said the utility recognizes extended outages are not only an inconvenience for businesses but costly.

He said SCE has worked to reduce last-minute cancellations of maintenance outages and set up a dedicated outage management and communications team to work 24/7 directly with businesses when the power goes out. Business owners can reach the team at 855-683-9067 or by email at scepoc@sce.com.

Business and residential customers can also learn more about specific outages by visiting the online SCE outage center. They can report a repair outage to SCE customer service by calling 1-800-611-1911 or by going online.

Janet Andrews, western regional emergency manager for the U.S. Postal Service, said the information provided in the outage school was really helpful, particularly the dedicated phone line and email for businesses. 

“When one of our post offices has an outage, they don’t have electricity to get on the Internet to get information,” she said. “It will be valuable for me to be able to call to find out how long the outage will be so I can call the post office in the area and tell them to put a sign up that the office is closed.’”

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