Sacramento CA – Assemblymember Anthony Portantino's bill to improve emergency and disaster preparedness in California was unanimously approved today on a vote of 12 to 0 in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.
AB 1650 requires public utilities to hold comprehensive disaster preparedness meetings every two years with the counties and cities they service in order to improve readiness and better prepare for natural disasters.
"In the wake of the fierce winds and power outages that caused so much damage in Southern California late last year, we need to look at these events in a different way," explained Assemblymember Portantino. "By requiring utilities to conduct public preparedness hearings every two years, we will be better able to coordinate response time, service and public safety."
A recent report commissioned by Southern California Edison said the utility could be better prepared for a major disaster and could have cut its response time if it had been. A preliminary report from the California Public Utilities Commission stated that in some cases Southern California Edison's equipment did not meet safety standards and that the utility was slow to restore power. The PUC is in the process of an ongoing investigation.
"A robust and periodic review of emergency plans with those in local and county government in accordance with input and standards set by the Public Utilities Commission can only lead to better coordination when disaster strikes. I applaud SCE for their recent efforts, but more remains to be done and the public review process called for in AB 1650 will ensure that utilities are prepared when disaster strikes," concluded Portantino.
The San Gabriel Valley was hit hard in early December 2011 by devastating winds that knocked out power to nearly a quarter-of-a-million customers; some of them for more than a week.