At its regular Tuesday meeting, the County Board of Supervisors summoned Southern California Edison officials to discuss public complaints about how they have responded to extended power outages resulting from last week's wind storm.
County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who represents Altadena and other San Gabriel Valley cities, told Edison officials that "99 percent" of the phone calls his office has received about the storms have been to complain about Edison's response.
He faulted them for not coordinating with public officials, and for not coming up with a plan to go door to door to give customers information on how long their power would be out. Veronica Gutierrez, the utility's vice president for local public affairs, told the Board the utility had done its best to distribute information through the local media, a response Antonovich took issue with.
"But the media only works if you have electricity, so that’s stupid," Antonovich told Gutierrez.
Antonovich suggested a better strategy would have been to use the Sheriff's Department and Edison officials to go door to door and inform people about outage time. He also asked about how well the utility has drilled its employees on training for scenarios for widespread power outages, and asked about Edison's plans for an emergency.
He also pointed out that it took until Saturday for Edison to open its distribution centers for emergency supplies.
Gutierrez referred to the 419,000 power outages caused by the wind storm as "unprecedented." She said that the utility has had trouble predicting when the outages will be over because field crews have responded to calls of a single fallen tree, and often found there to be multiple trees downed at the site.
She said the utility drills for these events and has brought in crews from as far as San Diego and Bakersfield, but that it has been difficult for them to even reach the areas where the poles are down because of all the tree debris on the streets.
Antonovich, however, suggested that he did not see any reason why Edison crews would not have been able to reach areas with outages.
"We’re not talking about out in the wilderness, we’re talking about an urban area," Antonovich said.
Questioning from Board Supervisor Don Knabe revealed that the Edison officials were not familiar with the county's Coordinated Area Recovery Efforts (CARE) program, which the county uses in emergencies to put out public information and coordinate their response.
County CEO William Fujioka told the board his office would be preparing a report on the utility's response and presenting it later this month or in early January.
The board voted unanimously to send a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Edison and other utilities in the state, to request that they investigate the utility's response and develop a better plan for response in a future crisis.
The Board did not ask for updated totals on how many still lacked power, and Edison did not provide any additional information on when all customers would have their power restored.