In preparing for the possible need to turn off power to prevent wildfires during severe weather, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has adapted its Community Resource Center (CRC) planning to keep customers and communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic while providing some essential services.
PG&E has sought feedback and is listening to customers and communities about how it can do better, make improvements and take action. Since last year’s wildfire season, PG&E has participated in nearly 300 meetings with state and federal agencies, local emergency managers, local elected leaders, tribal communities and customers to listen, partner and improve. PG&E is continuing to conduct outreach to counties and tribes for coordination meetings, in addition to weekly regional webinars.
PG&E will open CRCs in every county where PG&E initiates a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). The sole purpose of a PSPS is to reduce the risk of major wildfires during severe weather. While a PSPS is an important wildfire safety tool, losing power disrupts lives, especially for customers sheltering-at-home in response to COVID-19. These temporary CRCs will be open to customers when power is out at their homes and will provide ADA-accessible restrooms and hand-washing stations; medical-equipment charging; Wi-Fi; bottled water; and non-perishable snacks.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CRCs will follow important health and safety protocols including:
• Facial coverings and maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from those who are not part of the same household will be required at all CRCs.
• Temperature checks will be administered before entering CRCs located indoors.
• CRC staff will be trained in COVID-19 precautions and will regularly sanitize surfaces and use Plexiglas barriers at check-in.
• All CRCs will follow county and state requirements regarding COVID-19, including limits on the number of customers permitted indoors at any time.
Besides these health protocols, customers visiting a CRC in 2020 will experience further changes, including a different look and feel. In addition to using existing indoor facilities, PG&E is planning to open CRCs at outdoor, open-air sites in some locations and use Sprinter vans as CRCs in other locations. The CRC to be used will depend on a number of factors, including input from local and tribal leaders. Supplies also will be handed out in grab-and-go bags at outdoor CRCs so most customers can be on their way quickly.
Here’s a look at the variety of CRCs in use in 2020:
• Outdoor Micro CRCs: These CRCs will be set up under open-air tents often seen at the beach or at children’s soccer games. CRC staff will distribute grab-and-go bags with essential items such as water, snacks, and a PSPS information card with additional PSPS resources including where to find estimated restoration times. On-site charging will be available for medical devices only. An alternative type of tent may be deployed depending upon local conditions.
• Outdoor Mobile CRCs. These CRCs will be set up around a parked Sprinter van and will offer the same amenities as the Micro CRCs, including grab-and-go bags. On-site charging will be available for medical devices only.
• Indoor CRCs: Located in existing buildings, such as community centers, these air-conditioned and heated CRCs will be set up with physically distanced tables and chairs for customers to relax. On-site charging will be available for medical equipment and mobile devices.
“We’ve worked with counties, cities and tribal communities to locate CRCs where it makes the most sense during a PSPS event, and we’ve worked with medical experts to put COVID-19 protections in place for the health and safety of our customers and CRC staff,” said Laurie Giammona, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for PG&E.
The company understands the importance of keeping the electricity on, especially given current shelter-at-home orders for communities due to this global pandemic.
To learn more about PG&E’s plans for Community Resource Centers and how the company has worked to improve Public Safety Power Shutoffs, go to www.pge.com/wildfiresafety.