Communities across California experienced another round of intentional blackouts this week in the latest power company strategy for mitigating fire risk during extremely dry and windy conditions. CHA and the Regional Associations continue to partner with the state’s investor-owned electric utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) — as well as state and local government officials to ensure they grasp the obstacles hospitals must overcome to continue providing seamless care during power shutoffs.
In Northern California, through the efforts of the Associations, PG&E has assigned individual customer service managers to work with specific hospitals to improve communications and better manage the impacts of public safety power shutoff (PSPS) events. Staff from Hospital Council–Northern & Central California are in daily conversations with PG&E customer relations managers during this fire season, in addition to a weekly debrief call with PG&E focused entirely on hospital impacts.
In Southern California, the Associations have been engaged in ongoing communication with SCE since July to ensure frequent communication in advance of and during a PSPS event. SCE is sending daily updates to the Associations with the list of hospitals that are on a circuit under a PSPS watch or in the event of the circuit being de-energized. SCE presented its PSPS protocol to the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) board in July and during the recent round of area meetings with hospital executives in each HASC region.
The Associations are also coordinating with local emergency medical services (EMS) agencies on emergency response in the event of a de-energization of electrical circuits. Local EMS agencies are working with hospitals to address gaps in care for those who require electricity-dependent medical devices, and to raise public awareness about potential loss of power.
The Associations are working closely with utility providers in the San Diego area, as well, to prepare for any planned outages.
PSPS events — which are preventive measures of last resort — are likely to become more commonplace throughout California as utility companies seek to prevent destructive wildfires during periods of extreme risk, especially linked to high winds.
Hospitals are encouraged to ensure their leadership teams and appropriate disaster response personnel are in regular contact with their utility provider. CHA staff and regional vice presidents are available to assist in connecting hospitals with their appropriate utility provider contact.
Longer term, CHA and the Regional Associations will continue to press the power companies, state officials, and regulators for more rational and sustainable approaches to mitigating the threat of disastrous wildfires.
CHA would like to hear about hospitals’ experiences with PSPS events. Affected hospitals can share their stories via email.
Additional information about the utilities’ PSPS programs can be found at the following links: