SACRAMENTO (KRON) – The state’s top emergency management official is getting candid about his concerns with how the utilities are handling public safety in these power shut offs.
“They can’t have it both ways,” Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci, opening up about his frustrations with PG&E’s power shut offs.
“They can’t say we’re going to do the psps for ‘public safety’ and not think about the consequences because of that. It may prevent the fire from happening, but it creates a whole other set of complexities that we have to deal with,” Ghilarducci said.
Cal OES launched its emergency operations center once again on Wednesday to keep an eye on those complexities.
The agency already activated the center for half the month of October to address consequences from the multiple rounds of shut offs.
At an investigative hearing earlier this week, Ghilarducci told lawmakers his agency met with the utilities once a week for most of the year to plan ahead. He says even still, the utility has struggled to stay consistent with providing the state details including outage information, services, and information on customers who are medically vulnerable. He says details equals lives.
“We are pushing them to give us the confidence to know when they open up a community resource center or they’re helping a community member in some form, that they’ll give us an assurance to the granular level that it’s actually happening. I don’t want to know about it after the fact that there was a whole population that didn’t get services, or the utilities say we gave them services and thought that was good enough. No, it’s not good enough.”
Ghilarducci says the utility needs to do a better job of setting up contracts with the private sector ahead of time to help handle community needs from the company’s self-inflicted shut offs.
“They have to approach it in a way that we would any major emergency, I don’t think they’re there, in fact, I know they’re not quite there yet. We want them to start thinking in a different way, outside their own interest, and more in a public interest,” says Ghilarducci.
“The sole purpose of these power shutoffs is to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the communities that we serve,” PG&E said.
“We appreciate the feedback we’ve received from our regulator, the Governor’s office, state agencies, our customers and our communities throughout this historic weather event and resulting safety shutoffs. We’ve taken those requests and suggestions seriously and are working to implement many of them for this and future PSPS events. We will continue to work closely with the representatives from CalFIRE, CalOES, CPUC and others for this and future PSPS events,” explains PG&E.
With this smaller size of power shut offs, the state operations center is running at its lowest level, it will be active through Thursday.