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Edison reserves right to shut down power during critical fire weather

Southern California Edison is taking a bold step to prevent its equipment from sparking a fire.

NewsChannel 3 has learned that the utility will preemptively shut off power in some areas during extreme weather conditions.

Last month, SCE notified the staff of the Executive Office of the County of Santa Barbara, the Office of Emergency Management, County Fire, and the County Public Health Department about the new program.

The program is called Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS).

SCE released this timeline to NewsChannel 3 illustrating how PSPS will go into effect:

Downed and sparking power lines are one of the major causes of wildfires.

A lawsuit blames downed power lines for causing last year’s massive Thomas Fire that spread from Santa Paula to Santa Barbara burning 273,400 acres, and destroying more than 1,000 structures.

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams, who represents the First District, said he believes powering down during critical weather conditions is a good idea.

But, Williams said SCE needs to do more public outreach to let people know about the new program.

“It’s their initiative. We are not outlining the plan,” Williams said. “They need to let people know. We will help, but they need to let people know.”

Supervisor Janet Wolf, who represents the Second District, said SCE has the authority to implement PSPS but must follow certain guidelines, including mitigating the impacts.

“We have vulnerable populations out in the community,” Wolf. “We want to make sure we get information out to them.”

SCE released this statement to NewsChannel 3:

“Public Safety Power Shutoff is a rarely used operational practice by which SCE proactively shuts off power in a limited area during extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions. In considering whether to shut off power, among the many factors we consider are red flag warnings, humidity levels, and extreme high-wind conditions. SCE will make every effort to notify local governments and customers ahead of time in the event of a Public Safety Power Shutoff – especially critical care and medical baseline customers. We are also strengthening our collaboration and partnerships with communities across our service territory to explore options for enhancing community resilience during major events.”

SCE said it has already started meeting with local communities which may be impacted by shutdowns.

One of the big concerns raised by officials and residents is how emergency warnings and evacuations will reach people in case of an emergency if the power is off.

“It puts a bigger burden on us to let people know in the case of an emergency,” Williams explained. Williams also said that “going door to door” will become a more critical tool to inform people if they need to evacuate.

In light of Tuesday’s Red Flag warning, NewsChannel 3 asked SCE if it was planning to cut power to any local areas.

SCE released this statement:

“SCE is closely monitoring the weather conditions in the Santa Barbara area and has crews ready to respond in case of any outages. At this time, we do not anticipate de-energizing customers. Customers and local officials will be notified of any action taken. SCE’s number one priority is to protect public safety as well as the integrity of the system serving customers. Customers may report or inquire about outages at 800-611-1911.”

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