The Army Behind the Crews Who Get Your Lights Back On

SCE’s mailing and logistics staff keep repair crews going during wildfires, heat waves, storms and major projects.
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Stories : People

The Army Behind the Crews Who Get Your Lights Back On

SCE’s mailing and logistics staff keep repair crews going during wildfires, heat waves, storms and major projects.
Photo Credit: Ernesto Sanchez

Andrew Talluto thought he had heard everything until he got a request from a crew doing power line repairs after last year’s Thomas Fire. They needed bee suits.

Southern California Edison crews, working in a dense stand of trees, encountered bees. Talluto’s job as an SCE senior logistics supervisor is to get them the equipment they need to do their job. He found someone in SCE’s environmental group who located bee suits to send to the crews.

Know-how and thinking on your feet are just two of the critical skills Talluto and about 200 other SCE mailing and logistics staff and warehouse personnel need as the first responders who support crews during a major power restoration effort.

“Our job is to support the crews with water, Gatorade, snacks, personal protective equipment, toiletries and meals,” said Gabriela Castillo, Talluto’s manager.

Joshua Lairmore (right) and Cedrick Barnes, SCE mailing and logistics specialists, check snacks before sending supplies out to crews in the field.

The logistics team is on call 24/7, 365 days a year. They often are the first in and the last to leave, working the same 16-hours days as the crews.

No two deployments are alike. One may be to help crews with water, food, sunscreen and pop-up shade canopies during a heat wave while another could be providing hand warmers, heaters and balaclava knit face masks after a snowstorm.

Besides drinks and snacks, logistics often arranges, on just a few hours’ notice, for vendors to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for a 100- or 200-person crew at a remote location.

Advance planning is the key. The logistics team stocks plastic shipping crates filled with water, snacks and equipment ready for a forklift to load on a truck or in a van to go anywhere in SCE’s 50,000-square-mile territory.

An aisle at an SCE warehouse in the San Gabriel Valley is stocked floor to ceiling with “storm consumables” — every kind of supply imaginable from flashlights and batteries to rain gear and snow chains for vehicles.

Sometimes SCE logistics crews send out full-size freezers like this one to keep food and drinks cold for crews in the field.

But even multiple crates of supplies can quickly be exhausted in an extended assignment. During the early July Southern California heat wave, SCE’s logistics team supported crews in 22 service areas.

“By July 6, I was completely out of water,” said Frank Rosales, a senior logistics supervisor. He sent a 10-ton truck and a tractor trailer to Costco to restock.

Not all of their assignments are emergencies. A logistics team supported crews during a two-month power pole replacement project on Catalina Island this summer and a similar assignment in remote Trabuco Canyon in Orange County.

“They’re in places where you can’t just drop everything and go eat,” said Cedrick Barnes, who helped with support in Trabuco Canyon.

Most of the team has years of logistics experience and have honed a system to respond to whatever is required. If they don’t have it, they figure out how to get it.

During the recent Cranston Fire in Idyllwild, Castillo and Talluto left quickly for the mountain community to provide support for the crews with water, Gatorade and snacks. This was crucial because a staging site in Anza was not set up until late that night.

The way they see it, it was all in a day’s work.

“Logistics is in our blood,” Castillo said.