Public Safety

Our long-term goal is to have the safest operations in the country. Our customers and stakeholders won’t accept anything less, and neither will we.

Achieving the safest gas and electric systems possible is PG&E’s highest priority and responsibility. In 2011, we redoubled our efforts and our commitment to public safety while continuing to strengthen our focus on our internal safety culture and employee safety.

Embedding Public Safety into Our Operating Strategies

Following the San Bruno accident in 2010, in which a natural gas transmission pipeline owned and operated by PG&E ruptured, we launched a comprehensive review of our gas operations that we extended to eventually encompass all of PG&E. Working with the CPUC, we are in the process of completely overhauling our gas unit and making substantive changes to how we operate on a daily basis. Although we’re far from finished, we have taken numerous steps to promote public safety across our gas system.

A partial list from 2011 includes:

  • Reducing pressure on more than 900 miles of gas transmission pipelines to provide a greater margin of safety on our operating pipelines;
  • Hydrostatically testing 163 miles of transmission pipeline running through densely populated areas;
  • Validating the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) on approximately 2,000 miles of transmission pipeline, primarily transmission pipelines running through urban, populated areas known as high consequence areas;
  • Gathering, scanning and uploading more than 2.3 million paper documents into electronic files going back more than 50 years;
  • Installing five new automated valves, automating six existing valves and upgrading two valves that already had remote control capabilities; and
  • Increasing patrols and leak surveys.

We are also investing unprecedented resources in our electric system as we work toward running the safest and most reliable electric business in the country. There were several important highlights last year:

  • Pacific Gas and Electric Company (Utility) became one of the first utilities in the nation to employ a new technology for manhole covers that improves public safety. The program will replace traditional manhole covers with ones that stay in place and open a few inches during a power outage incident.
  • We replaced significant amounts of the cables and wires that carry power to customers. The new cables and wires will be less prone to failure, making PG&E’s electric system safer for the public and for our employees to maintain and operate.
  • We used information gathered from SmartMeter™ technology to help coordinate and restore service to customers when storms impacted our service area last year. The technology allows us to more quickly respond to equipment failures that in some cases may pose a public safety risk.
  • We continued to manage vegetation along our electric lines, working to keep transmission and distribution lines clear from trees and bushes and reducing the risk of fires and outages.

Looking forward, PG&E’s operating plans and goals for 2012 and 2013 revolve predominantly around work that we are prioritizing and in many cases accelerating to enhance the safety of our systems. In fact, PG&E has dedicated $200 million in both 2012 and 2013 beyond what the Utility is authorized to recover in rates to complete work planned for future years that will improve both system safety and customer service.

Emergency Preparedness and Public Awareness

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.

Our focus is on two key areas:

PG&E has added six Mobile Command Vehicles to our fleet—two large coaches and four vans—to be dispatched to an emergency to facilitate communications between response crews, command staff and government agencies. Each vehicle is equipped with workstations, mapping tools, TV monitors and radio and satellite communications.

  • Preparedness: We published a Gas Emergency Response Plan in 2011, which we will update annually. The plan, which incorporates industry best practices, allows us to enhance our skills and work collaboratively with public safety first responders in advance of an incident to learn and practice together.
  • Public Awareness: PG&E’s efforts here 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 gas or electric 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.

We are partnering with first responders and public safety officials to enhance emergency preparedness training programs. This includes increasing the number of educational and interactive sessions—including practice drills—held with first responders to simulate emergency response events and prepare for gas and electric-related emergencies.

We are also holding workshops throughout our service area for local emergency agencies. During these workshops, first responders engage with local PG&E operations leadership and receive safety information to protect first responder personnel and the public in the event of a utility-related emergency. Last year, the workshops reached more than 500 people and covered topics such as PG&E’s Gas Emergency Response Plan, the local area gas transmission and distribution system, and dispatch procedures. The number of workshops has increased significantly in 2012.

Additionally, we continued to meet with local governments and agencies to discuss gas pipeline safety plans—organizing meetings with cities, counties and other community groups to respond to questions and concerns.

Raising Awareness about Public Safety

PG&E continues to focus on increasing awareness among our customers about the safe use of gas and electricity and to provide safety educational materials to groups that routinely work around utility lines.

This includes our efforts to remind customers to call us when they find a downed wire or to “Call 811 Before You Dig” to have underground utility lines marked prior to any digging project.

We are also increasing our presence in local communities through a 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. This team will also partner with a gas emergency planning team to identify best practices from the workshops with first responders; participate in exercises, drills and training; and identify areas for improvement in PG&E’s gas emergency response efforts.

PG&E also maintains 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

PG&E’s website also includes information on using gas safely, responding to gas odors and pilot light failures 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 safety-awareness activities include:

  • SafeKids School Public Safety Program. Over the past decade, PG&E has offered free electric and natural gas safety education to K-8 teachers in schools across our service area. In 2011, elementary and middle school teachers requested more than 271,000 utility safety booklets and posters to be used in their classroom. In the last decade, PG&E has provided public safety educational materials to more than 3.5 million students and families.
  • Contractor and Agricultural Worker Public Safety Outreach. PG&E continues to provide electric and natural gas safety training materials to contractors and agricultural workers throughout our service area. These materials include bilingual brochures, posters and videos. In 2011, more than 169,000 safety education materials were distributed across the construction industry and more than 40,000 were distributed across the agricultural industry.

Measuring Our Performance

Recognizing the critical importance of public safety, PG&E has set specific goals for a set of five public safety measures. Our 2012 report will share PG&E’s performance on these measures, which join the metrics already in use to gauge performance on employee safety, including our Lost Workday Case Rate and Motor Vehicle Incident Rate.

To hold ourselves to an even higher standard, PG&E is directly tying management employee compensation to performance on these seven measures in 2012.