June 8, 2018 (San Diego) We at the San Diego Monitor were able to talk with Mike Calcagno of San Diego Gas and Electric. We were talking of the capabilities that the Utility has to respond to disasters, like the recent fires. Calcagno told the Monitor that utility restoration is one of the top priorities the utility has, whether it is after a fire, like the recent North County fires, or an Earthquake, or when they were asked to send help for Superstorm Sandy two years ago.
They have several tools at their disposal. They include a seat at the Office of Emergency Services Emergency Operations Center during a disaster, to three field command vehicles. These three are trailers pulled by 4×4 light trucks meaning they can almost go anywhere.
These vehicles allow field managers to see what is needed, and prioritize what needs replacing when. We also talked about replacement the poles. He said that anytime they need to replace poles after a fire, or any other incident, they are just replacing them with Steel poles. They are more resilient and easier to maintain for the grid. After the current fires, since they are doing a one to one replacement, they have been allowed to just do it without the usual environmental reviews. Usually during emergencies this is the case, so that was not particularly surprising to us.
The vehicles have both satellite, 3G, 4G and microwave communication capability, among others, so conceivable could be dropped anywhere around the world. During the recovery phase of Superstorm Sandy the Air Force was ready to load one of them into a cargo plane but the East Coast Utility did not need them. Crews did deploy and they were very proud of the recovery effort they helped with.
So next time we have a major disaster, remember, it is not just the first responders who go where needed. So do your utility workers. You can see a picture of one of these here.