Moving into fall and winter with a higher chance of Santa Ana winds, San Marino residents supplied with numerous power circuits by Southern California Edison (SCE) face possible power shutoffs in the event that weather creates a risky environment for a possible fire threat.
Last year, the San Marino Fire Department participated in SCE’s San Gabriel Valley Wildlife Mitigation and Grid Resiliency Workshop, which contained a presentation on SCE’s “Power Safety Power Shutoff Program” (PSPS). The program serves as a “proactive de-energizing of power lines power in high fire risk areas when extreme fire conditions present a clear and imminent danger to public safety,” according to a report by SMFD to City Council. The conditions are determined by SCE weather experts and SCE crews, who take condition observations in the field.
According to SCE, the program is in response to California’s “new normal” year-round fire season. By powering down the lines in risky conditions, the program serves to inform residents ahead of time and reduce the risk of wildfires by eliminating sources of ignition.
San Marino has 12 circuits that are included in the program, according to San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda. Through the program, potentially affected customers will receive a first notification two days ahead of a possible shutoff, with a second notification one day ahead if weather conditions persist. A third notification will come when power is shut off. And finally, a fourth and final notification will be sent when weather conditions return to safer levels and power has been restored. It is also possible that “erratic or sudden onset of conditions” may affect SCE’s ability to provide advanced notice.
Rueda shared concerns for the notifications to energy dependent residents who may have medical needs for power.
“We have nine energy dependent residents that we are aware of,” said Rueda. “Some of them have made themselves known to our city so we know who they are and we can check on them.”
Although SCE does not publicly provide the names of energy dependent customers, a letter was sent by SCE to them and Rueda said approximately five residents replied back.
Even without the program and shutoffs, San Marino “regularly experiences power outages,” according to Rueda.
“Residents should really prepare themselves for those eventualities, not only from this shutoff program, but from loss of power due to earthquakes or other disasters,” said Rueda.
Rueda recommended a generator for backup power and visiting cityofsanmarino.org/government/departments/fire for additional handout tips and information.