California Officials Want More Notice From PG&E Before Outages Related To Fire Risk

Jun 18, 2019

California emergency operations officials say a morning notification by Pacific Gas and Electric was not enough for an evening loss of power for tens of thousands of people earlier this month.

The planned outage was instituted during a time of high winds and high temperatures as the utility works to prevent a possible wildfire caused by its infrastructure. PG&E says its protocol dictates it should notify state and local emergency services 72 hours before a planned outage and should give residents 48 hours.

Mark Ghilarducci with California's Office of Emergency Services says that didn't happen 10 days ago when PG&E turned off the power to 22,000 people in five Northern California counties June 7.

"When you're looking out and forecasting, they can get good models in place 48 hours out and then by discussing that with us, instead of calling on a Friday afternoon and say hey listen we're probably going to do this Friday night, it varied from the protocols that we had agreed to," Ghilarducci said.

PG&E says it didn't give a heads up as early as it would have liked because of a rapidly changing weather forecast. The utility also says many people have not answered phone calls or responded to texts and emails when they're notified. The company keeps track of how many people have confirmed receiving a message.

"For customers we are unable to reach or confirm contact, we will knock on doors when possible with a primary focus on customers who rely on electricity for critical life-sustaining equipment,” said spokeswoman Brandi Merlot. “We are encouraging the customers who receive one of these communications to please answer our call or respond to our texts or email.”

Merlot says PG&E is trying to find the balance between insufficient notice and notification fatigue.  

During the June 7 outage Yuba County set up stations for people with medical conditions, but officials would have liked to have had more notice.

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