Public Safety

Photo: Linda Cicero

PG&E has the privilege of providing 15 million Californians with the natural gas and electricity that help power and heat their homes and businesses. Our customers rightly expect us to provide reliable service every day, but more than that, they count on us to do so safely.

Meeting that responsibility is PG&E’s highest priority. Following the San Bruno tragedy, we’ve redoubled our efforts and our commitment to public safety, starting with steps taken immediately after the accident. We also continue to strengthen our focus on employee safety.

Strengthening Our Commitment

To deliver on our commitment, PG&E has established a centralized emergency prevention, preparedness and response program through which a single organization will manage and coordinate all of our public safety activities. This organization will report directly to Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s President and focus on three key areas:

  1. Prevention: PG&E’s efforts here will focus on two areas: first, interacting with our first responder counterparts in a standardized way to strengthen awareness about the protocols to use in the case of a utility-based emergency; and second, increasing outreach to a range of other stakeholders—including departments of public works, contractors, elementary schools and other members of the community—to prevent incidents such as contact with utility assets from occurring.
  2. Preparedness: We are in the process of developing and sharing robust emergency response plans that will allow us to grow our skills and partner with public safety first responders in advance of an incident to learn and practice together.
  3. Response: Our focus here is on demonstrating a solid understanding of the preparedness plans and working well with others during a crisis, so that every emergency response is both safe and effective.

Using these three areas as our guide, PG&E is focused on the following near- and longer-term steps:

  1. Building a more comprehensive training and exercise curriculum for employees and our first responder counterparts.
  2. Sharing gas transmission pipeline locations and other information with first responders, building on successful pilots we have held in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Sonoma Counties.
  3. Expanding our website for first responders to provide educational materials, training opportunities and other information, including gas and electric asset data.
  4. Enhancing our public safety program by better integrating damage prevention data—such as the number of times independent construction contractors or others hit or puncture underground gas pipelines in the course of their work—to assist in identifying safety-related trends and the appropriate response.
  5. Working with state and local organizations and other stakeholders to create a statewide emergency response plan for gas and electric operations that covers all hazards.

First Responder and Emergency Preparedness

PG&E is increasing coordination with local officials and first responders in communities across our service area, sharing crucial information on PG&E’s systems and bringing an added degree of collaboration and emergency preparedness for both PG&E and these stakeholders.

PG&E Shares Critical Information with First Responders

PG&E regularly shares information on our gas and electric systems with first responders across our service area, but after the San Bruno accident, we’ve increased our efforts to provide detailed information on our infrastructure and emergency procedures.

This collaboration often takes the form of community meetings organized by PG&E, including a session with San Mateo County firefighters and police officers in March 2011. Nearly 30 professionals attended the meeting, which has been held annually for more than a decade.

At the event, held at PG&E’s San Carlos Service Center, we reviewed the major components of our gas transmission and distribution system on the Peninsula and other critical information, including guidance on how PG&E responds to electrical outages. We shared an enhanced level of detail on our gas and electric transmission systems, the location of our assets, how we mark them in the communities we serve and the process PG&E first responders follow when called upon.

The meeting is a template we intend to follow across our service area. By improving consistency in how we share information and train others, we and our public safety partners will be better prepared to respond in the future.

During these discussions, PG&E and first responders cover the major components of our gas transmission and distribution system, including devices used to regulate gas flow to customers’ homes, the markings we use to identify gas lines and the different types of pipes in our system. We also discuss the equipment in our electric transmission and distribution system and how we respond to electrical outages.

This enhanced focus builds on the safety education materials we have provided to fire and police departments since 2004. Since July 2009, our course on responding to gas and electric emergencies has been attended by more than 700 emergency response personnel from across our service area, including fire, police, community emergency response teams (CERTs), public works and Homeland Security agency members. These participants are responsible for training and mentoring an additional 11,600 first responders, increasing the impact of the training. Along with the class, 3,600 “Responding to Utility Emergency” training books and the companion instructor DVDs were distributed in 2010.

PG&E also works closely with organizations like the Red Cross, local city emergency preparedness councils and CERTs to provide brochures and other materials that help explain how to prepare for an earthquake and other natural disasters, how and when to shut off utilities and why it is necessary to have an emergency kit.

For example, with support from PG&E, the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter trained more than one million people in the Bay Area to prepare for and respond to emergencies, with a focus on making underserved communities more resilient in the face of a disaster.

Public Safety Information Program

As part of our enhanced commitment, PG&E launched an interactive online tool in coordination with Google that makes available the location of transmission pipelines in customers’ neighborhoods. Customers can enter an address to view pipeline locations throughout PG&E’s service area and, for more specific information, can obtain personalized gas transmission pipeline information by logging in to their PG&E account at

The new interactive tool builds on our Public Safety Information Program, which has worked to increase awareness among our customers about the safe use of gas and electricity and provide safety educational materials to groups that routinely work around utility lines. This program distributes user-friendly, engaging educational materials in multiple languages.

In addition, in April 2011, PG&E began sending letters and brochures with information about natural gas safety to anyone who has a home or business located within about 2,000 feet of a gas transmission pipeline. The letter notifies recipients about their proximity to the pipeline and highlights what steps PG&E is taking to modernize and enhance the safety of our operations and pipelines. The brochure provides additional natural gas safety tips, including what to do if recipients suspect a gas leak or need to dig into the ground.

PG&E is an active participant in the national “Call Before You Dig” program, communicating regularly to residential and business customers about the importance of identifying buried pipeline before breaking soil on a project.

PG&E’s website also includes information on using gas safely, gas odors and pilot lights and the dangers of carbon monoxide. Electric safety topics covered include electric appliance and generator safety, how to turn electricity on and off and how to safely light a home. We also offer important information on emergency preparedness.

Examples of other activities include:

  1. SafeKids School Safety Program. Over the past decade, PG&E has provided free safety education materials to teachers in more than 85 percent of the schools in our service area. In 2010, the program included both direct mail and email campaigns, reaching over 58,000 educators who, in turn, requested nearly 200,000 safety booklets and posters to be used in the classroom.
  2. Contractor and Agricultural Worker Outreach. PG&E continues to provide safety training materials to contractors and agricultural workers throughout our service area. These materials include bilingual brochures, posters and videos. In 2010, more than 123,000 educational materials were distributed across the construction industry and nearly 60,000 materials to the agricultural industry.
  3. Increasing Our Presence in Local Communities. We are expanding our public safety team so that PG&E employees are present and available to engage local stakeholders, raise safety awareness, promote prevention and work with local first responders to develop and test emergency response plans.

Measuring Our Progress

PG&E has set specific goals for measuring progress of the new emergency prevention, preparedness and response program, including the development and use of metrics to track our performance on key public safety measures.

Metrics to measure public safety performance are currently under development. Once implemented, these measures will join the metrics already in use to gauge performance on employee safety, including our OSHA Recordable Rate and Motor Vehicle Incident Rate. As part of our commitment to safety, PG&E directly ties management employee compensation to companywide performance on these two measures. In 2012, PG&E’s performance on public safety metrics will factor prominently into this management compensation component.

To hold ourselves to an even higher standard, in 2011, the Compensation Committee of the PG&E Corporation Board of Directors will apply both a quantitative and qualitative assessment to our public and employee safety performance when determining management employee compensation. Taking this step will allow a deeper analysis of incidents, injuries and close calls, and will rightly consider the safety of our employees, customers and communities in the final compensation calculation.


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