Monday, October 22 , 2018, 4:08 pm | Partly Cloudy 68º

 
 
 
 

Large Crowd Turns Out for Edison Meeting Regarding Power Shutoffs During Fire Weather

Representative of the utility and public agencies stress preparedness at gathering in Santa Barbara

At a meeting Wednesday night in Santa Barbara, a representative from Southern California Edison Co. explains a new program in which the utility would shut off electricty during dangerous fire weather. Click to view larger
At a meeting Wednesday night in Santa Barbara, a representative from Southern California Edison Co. explains a new program in which the utility would shut off electricty during dangerous fire weather. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

A large crowd turned out Wednesday night to listen to an informational meeting put on by Southern California Edison (SCE) regarding the decision to shut off power in certain areas during fire-danger weather conditions.

The meeting was held at Earl Warren Showgrounds and was open to the public. Community members from Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, and unincorporated areas showed up to voice their concerns and have their questions answered.

“My biggest concern is with the power outages, and I want to know how the public will get information if our power were to shut off due to the weather conditions,” said Joie McKay. “I think it’s important to know the correct safety procedures that should be taken in the case that the power does shut off.”

McKay lives on the Riveria in Santa Barbara, and has had to evacuate three times due to wildfires in the area.

Several community partners of SCE set up booths along the walls of the meeting room so that people could gather more information, ask questions, and raise concerns.

Community partners included the Santa Barbara Fire Department, the American Red Cross, Goleta Prepare Now!, California Highway Patrol, and many others.

Each booth provided informational packets, brochures, and magnets on public safety and disaster preparedness and response. Attendees could also sign-up and ensure they receive disaster and safety alerts.  

A crew from the local chapter of the American Red Cross was on hand to share information about its programs during emergencies such as wildfires. Click to view larger
A crew from the local chapter of the American Red Cross was on hand to share information about its programs during emergencies such as wildfires. (Sheridan Taphorn / Noozhawk photo)

“I think the community partners in attendance today are a great representation of the many concerns and questions that continue to be raised by the public,” said Rondi Guthrie, government relations manager at Southern California Edison. “I am so thankful that each of these organizations have showed up to help inform and answer any questions our community may have.”

Rob Lewin, director of Santa Barbara County’s Office of Emergency Management, opened up the meeting with remarks on what community members can do to be aware and prepared for future disasters.

“We are here to talk about what is truly the new normal for all of California, and we thought that it would be a good idea to take the opportunity to provide information on what we can all do to prepare ourselves for any emergency that causes a power outage,” Lewin said.

Bill Chiu and Tom Brady from Southern California Edison provided in-depth information on the public safety power shutdown program that’s being put together by public utilities in California.

They covered operational practices, system hardening, engineering advances, vegetation management, and situational awareness.

“It is awesome to see such a large turnout, and we are excited to be here with the community to share this information,” Brady said.

Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, urges citizens to be prepared for emergencies during what he calls the ‘new normal.’ Click to view larger
Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, urges citizens to be prepared for emergencies during what he calls the ‘new normal.’ (Sheridan Taphorn / Noozhawk photo)

The theme of the night seemed to be informing the public of this “new normal,” and ensuring that the practice of power shutdowns will be a last resort.

“I think the most important reason for having this meeting is making sure the public knows that these power outages are really an option of last resort,” said Guthrie. “The decision to shut off the power is not made in a vacuum, and our hope is that it will be used minimally.”

Edison’s decision to implement these power outages will be enforced with a notification to the community at least 40 hours before they take place. Notifications will not necessarily mean that the power will be shut off, but will simply inform people that weather conditions “may” require power outages.

Wednesday night’s meeting was just one of several to come. SCE plans on holding several more informational public meetings in the near future to ensure that the public is up to speed with new procedures.

“Our first step is to engage the community, and our second is to keep the dialogue flowing,” said David Song, public information officer for Edison. “These meetings are a two-way street that comprise of raising concerns and also sharing concerns.”

Noozhawk intern Sheridan Taphorn can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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