Safety Commissioner Presses Edison on Emergency Power Shutoffs

A recent La Cañada Flintridge Public Safety Commission meeting turned a tad contentious as a commission member questioned a Southern California Edison representative over the energy provider’s program for shutting off power to help reduce the threat of wildfire.
Edison’s proactive practice of turning off power in high-risk fire areas is known as a public safety power shutoff, or PSPS. According to the company, the shutoff is put into effect when there are extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions.
The PSPS is one of the elements of Edison’s 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan, company spokeswoman Marissa Castro-Salvati told the commission. Other elements of the plan include work to cover conductors to prevent fires from starting and to manage vegetation.
A first notification of shutoff to customers typically is made two days beforehand, and a second notification occurs the day before. Shutoff would begin on the third day unless there was an erratic or sudden onset of conditions to impact customers, according to Edison’s website. Additionally, a fourth notification would be made after the restoration of power.
When weather forecasts indicate extreme weather conditions, Edison starts to assess the potential impact to affected areas, the site says. It also says the company will analyze historical data to predict the likelihood of a fire, closely monitor alerts from the National Weather Service and place incident monitors on alert if needed.
“Who at Edison has the power, pardon the pun, to shut off the power?” said Commissioner Marilyn Smith. “Your organization keeps saying ‘we, we, we.’ Somebody must have the power to say ‘Off,’ and who is that?”
Castro-Salvati responded it was the Incident Management Team, also known as the IMT, in the emergency operations center.
“Someone on the team must have the authority to do it,” Smith said.
Castro-Salvati said, “No, it’s actually a determination. … It’s the IMT as a whole that basically is the one that says, ‘Yes, we are going to turn it off.’ So whoever is in that room, at the emergency operations center, is the one that makes that determination.”
After some more back-and-forth over who was a liaison officer for the team, Smith said she was a “great believer” in President Harry Truman’s “the buck stops here” motto.
“And I have yet to hear anybody from Edison take responsibility for an actual decision to cut off power,” Smith said. “I can respect that there’s data points that go in there and the decision is made, but it would be appropriate to find out who actually gives the order to pull the plug or de-energize. So yes, I would like to know who that is.”
Castro-Salvati said she would get back to Smith and the commission with answers to its questions.
After the meeting, city management analyst Christina Nguyen also said she hoped to get the commission the answers to their questions by its January meeting.
Additionally, members of the commission wanted a say in the implementation plan for the possible use of Flock Safety cameras throughout LCF, specifically about possible locations, before a February City Council meeting addressing the matter. Smith had asked if the Public Safety Commission could give its input on locations.
The cameras capture traditional video, send real-time alerts to patrol vehicles and read license plates. The City Council is exploring the use of the devices in LCF in response to recent residential burglaries.
Resident Octavia Thuss said she was concerned about possible racial profiling and misuse of information arising from use of the cameras, and wanted those issues to be part of the discussion.
“Personally, I feel safe,” Thuss said. “But I do have friends that feel threatened. … Transparency is critical.”
The public safety reports section of the meeting yielded additional information about the report of a rape in October in the 1600 block of Verdugo Boulevard.
Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station Sgt. John Gilbert said the victim was offered a ride, then was assaulted in a vehicle and taken to an unknown location, where she was raped.
Gilbert, who did not immediately have the precise date of the crime, said the incident remained under investigation and authorities had a description of the suspect.

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