PG&E holds panel on disaster prep, scholarships, drone program
SAN CARLOS, California – As winter arrives, customer safety, power restoration and disaster preparedness become a top priority for everyone including utility companies, representatives of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) stressed during a recent media roundtable.
PG&E Multicultural Communications spokesperson Fiona Chan emceed a discussion that included the company’s scholarship and drone research programs.
PG&E Senior Emergency Management Specialist for the Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Julie Kim cited flooding, high winds and landslides as among those hazards that everyone should also be watchful of in the winter season.
People should stay clear of downed power lines during storms and other calamities and be aware that such lines could be hidden in fallen trees, flooded areas and snow. 911 call and notification to PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 is important.
Everyone is advised to be constantly informed of flood warnings and evacuation notifications from local emergency management, fire department, law enforcement, or local media.
“Commuters and pedestrians are also reminded that strong or high wind with gusts above 31 mph should be very careful to avoid incidents of downed trees, power lines and signs, and possible dangerous projectiles of unsecured objects,” Kim cautioned. “It would be good to take cover next to a building or a secure shelter if wind speeds or gusts become dangerous.”
Ground movements like rock falls, deep failure of slopes and shallow debris flows resulting from landslide resulting from erosion by rivers, ocean waves and earthquakes also are hazards that everyone needs to be aware of.
As for the PG&E preparedness assessment as a result of the northern California wildfires last October, Kim replied that “it is an ongoing situation in terms of assessing our performance in that unfortunate happening. Emergency preparedness is a continual process and we expect the worst to come so we prepare the best we can.”
“Our region is very prone to winter storms that usually involve heavy flooding, rains, snow, high winds, mudslides, landslides that significantly result in several number of hours of outages. We have a strong restoration scorecard that we try to maintain,” Kim added.
PG&E also announced that it now accepting applications for college-bound high school graduates as well as current college and continuing students for the nearly $700,000 worth of scholarships for Northern and Central California residents.
All information as to qualifications, requirements and other details are available on the company’s website and applications should be turned in by February 5, 2018.
Former PG&E scholarship winner and presently Gas Program Manager Elizabeth Sum said, “Being with the scholarship committee for the past four years, I can say that there is never the same mix of races. It always varies. We always pick our students based on their merits. Gender and ethnicity do not matter.”
Aside from their scholarships, PG&E also has what it calls employee resource group (ERG), one of which is Samahan, which is composed of Filipino employees.
“The employer research group Samahan has been over thirty years. Filipino students can apply for our PG&E scholarship and also can apply with Samahan that will double their opportunity to get a scholarship,” disclosed Sum.
The same forum also discussed briefly PG&E’s use of or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones to enhance safety and reliability of its gas, electricity and hydropower services.
The safety drone program has shown promise in monitoring remote infrastructure and enhancing capabilities to detect leaks and structural issues.
PG&E gas engineer Gerry Bong assuage fears of invasion of privacy whenever they use drones with video camera, saying that when they use cameras in inspecting their pipelines, they are really careful not to take pictures of people driving nearby.
At the end of the forum, Chan presented a bouquet of flowers to New America Media Executive Director Sandy Close as a sendoff gift before NAM closed shop.