SCE, Telecoms Partner in Wildfire Preparedness
IRWINDALE, Calif. — Gregg Lake has worked in the telecommunications industry for 42 years, most recently with Synergy. The engineer works on utility poles with cellular antennas on right-of-way properties throughout California, so when a proactive shutoff of electricity in high fire risk areas is called during extreme weather conditions, he needs to know about it.
Lake, along with about 50 representatives from telephone and cable companies throughout Southern California, recently attended a PowerTalks outage seminar hosted by Southern California Edison to learn more about all types of outages and what happens when a Public Safety Power Shutoff is called by the utility.
“The important thing is that we make sure we are in the loop to receive PSPS notifications,” said Lake. “We want to prepare all of our antennae cell sites so they don’t go down for a long period of time. That is why we need to be directly engaged with Edison.”
SCE and other investor-owned utilities in California are preparing for wildfire season as summer starts and customers will likely see more proactive Public Safety Power Shutoffs. These proactive power shutoffs will help keep the public safe and are called only during elevated weather conditions that could lead to a wildfire.
The recent PowerTalks was also an opportunity for the telecommunication companies to share their emergency response plans and how they can better work with SCE during a PSPS where customers are notified about 24-48 hours in advance. Customers are encouraged to sign up for these alerts at: sce.com/psps.
“Telecom companies serve millions of customers and they need to understand when and how PSPS events can occur,” said Kari Gardner, SCE senior manager of Consumer Affairs, at the recent PowerTalks event. “We also need to learn from our partners what challenges they may face when a PSPS is called so that we can work effectively in serving our customers alike. It is important for us to understand the resiliency plans for these critical service providers which will ensure their customers can continue to use their communication services during events.”
Recently, a statewide campaign with the three largest energy companies in California was launched to educate customers around wildfire preparedness, especially during PSPS. In addition to having an emergency plan in place, the site provides useful safety links and more details around Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
Telecom companies serve millions of customers and they need to understand when and how PSPS events can occur. We also need to learn from our partners what challenges they may face when a PSPS is called so that we can work effectively in serving our customers alike.”Kari Gardner, SCE Senior Manager
Mark Capurso, Frontier operations director, attended SCE’s recent PowerTalks to learn how to better partner with SCE during an electrical emergency.
“Our customer expectations, like yours, is to receive uninterrupted service,” said Capurso, who noted that part of their emergency response includes pre-staging of emergency restoration equipment. “We are interested in how we can better partner up during a PSPS and see how we can keep our networks up.”
He was especially interested in how Frontier’s rural customers will be impacted during a safety power shutoff, especially since many are in high fire risk areas. Although some of the company’s cables are underground, many are attached to existing power poles. And during a wildfire, their cables could be affected, leaving customers without phone, broadband or cell service.
“We want to make sure there is no negative impact to our network and customers,” said Capurso, who noted that Frontier has emergency backup power during these types of emergencies at its major offices. “The remote portions of our network can sustain service interruptions due to the loss of power as we have limited emergency back-up power.
“There is a need to be more focused on preventative measures … it’s not just Edison and Frontier,” he added. “We need a strategy as a state for fire prevention.”