PG&E Conducts Drills for Public Safety Power Shutoff Response with Helicopters, Ground Crews

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is conducting a company-wide, full-scale emergency exercise to prepare for the upcoming wildfire season this week.

During the five-day exercise, employees from across PG&E’s service territory simulate real-life events that could happen during a real Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). The drills include testing new procedures that will improve communications to customers, shorten the length of power outages and reduce the number of customers affected when power has to be shut off in an effort to reduce the risk of wildfires.

Several real-world activities, including line inspections by both ground crews and helicopters are happening to familiarize crews with conditions on the ground and provide additional inspections to lines in high-fire risk areas. During the drill, PG&E and contractor personnel will practice those inspections in order to reduce the time it takes to safely return electrical service to its customers. No actual power interruptions will occur related to the drill.

Michael Lewis, interim president of Pacific Gas & Electric Company, said the exercise, which follows similar three-day exercises in June and July, creates invaluable experience for the company’s frontline workers, and improved coordination with state and local partners.

“Nothing is more important than keeping our customers and their communities safe. We also know that when we call a Public Safety Power Shutoff to meet that responsibility, it can disrupt lives and cause hardship. These exercises help us ensure that if we forecast dangerous weather and a real event becomes necessary, we will be ready to respond efficiently and effectively, while doing everything we can to minimize those impacts,” Lewis said.

The sole purpose of a PSPS is to reduce the risk of major wildfires caused by our infrastructure during severe weather. In the event of extreme weather conditions, PG&E will proactively de-energize lines, shutting off power for the safety of customers and communities. During an actual PSPS event, crews will inspect every component along de-energized lines in high fire-risk areas —inspecting from the sky and from the ground—to identify and repair damaged lines or equipment before restoring power.

Smaller, Shorter and Smarter

PG&E understands how challenging these power shutoff events are for its customers, particularly as people are spending more time at home. That’s why PG&E will only call a power shutoff when it is absolutely necessary for public safety and the company is working to make these shutoffs smaller, shorter and smarter in 2020 and beyond.

PG&E is using more than 730 advanced weather stations to pinpoint where severe weather is happening, installing technology that limits the size of outages and reduces the number of customers affected, and it is increasing its helicopter fleet from 35 to 65 exclusive use helicopters while adding more field crews cut restoration times in half.

Resources

PG&E offers our customers plentiful information that can help them prepare for a PSPS event.

  • On pge.com/weather, you’ll find the updated PSPS potential forecast as well as local weather conditions.
  • On pge.com/wildfiresafety, you’ll find everything that PG&E has done to reduce the impact the PSPS events and mitigate the risk of wildfire ignitions.
  • And, on safetyactioncenter.pge.com, there are tips and checklists and videos to help you get ready for an emergency.

About PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 23,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation's cleanest energy to 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.

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