Paul Riddle

A relatively new program by Southern California Edison (SCE) could force residents in South Pasadena to be without power during a wind storm, low humidity or scorching temperatures. Some say the power could be shut off for multiple days if the inclement weather demands it.

The program, Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), is a new practice implemented in the last several months that SCE may use to preemptively shut off power in the high fire risk areas of So Pas, which mainly consists of the hills, according to Paul Riddle, So Pas Fire Chief.

“PSPS events are the option of last resort in a line of operational procedures SCE employs to mitigate fire risk when conditions warrant,” according to the printed material SCE hands out to customers and other stakeholders.

Riddle cautioned local residents to not be too concerned about such events here because they would be of “low frequency.”

Riddle explained the new program and its relationship to So Pas during a recent sit-down interview in his office along with John Pope, the city’s new public information officer.

“That specific program is part of Edison’s overall wildfire mitigation and safety grid resiliency program,” Riddle said. “Any large campaign fire… whether it’s a large loss of residential or property values. They look at the root causes and some of these causes have pointed back to downed power lines. Edison started to take a pro-active approach when the conditions warrant. That would be high winds, high temperatures, low humidity. They would start to look at those weather events and start to make the decision whether or not they are going to proactively shut off power to those areas.”

Riddle also said the biggest concern for local fire officials is the SCE maps that pinpoint the local areas representing the highest fire risk. He said SCE is reevaluating the maps.

“This is probably one of the biggest concerns to our community is the accuracy of their maps that show the high-hazard areas,” Riddle said. “They are redoing the map for South Pasadena and they are redoing all the maps. It is going to ensure that South Pasadena’s map is going to more accurately reflect our high-hazard hill areas.”

SCE will consult with local fire officials before implementing such an event, but also has dedicated resources to come to its own conclusions that include ongoing assessments from meteorologists, red flag warnings and weather stations, to name a few of the measures used to call for the power to be shut off.

In fact, SCE nearly called for such an event a few weekends ago when the winds were swirling around nearly 40 miles an hour. SCE eventually did call for any power shutoff in So Pas.

“This is a relatively new program and it was the first time SCE was monitoring our area,” Riddle said. “The good news for us is I believe this is going to be a low-frequency occurrence.”

Riddle also said the program is going to be a valuable tool in the ongoing battle against wildfires, which have not happened in South Pasadena for at least 26 years.

“Anything that adds to our ability to reduce the risk of historically very, very damaging wildfires in an interface area and we certainly have that in our area. If we can limit the risk factors during a significant wind event, we are supportive of that.”

Some tips to follow from SCE regarding the new program:

Be sure SCE has your correct phone, text or email contact information so you can receive outage alerts. You can sign up through your account at sce.com under Profile or call (800) 655-4555.

Learn how to prepare for a power outage or any other disaster at ready.gov/.

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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