Public Safety


Number of workshops held to educate first responders about the risks associated with electricity and gas which they may face responding to emergencies

In 2012, we made progress in several key areas to sharpen our focus on public safety. We continued to enhance the integrity of our gas and electric infrastructure and increase public awareness of potential hazards associated with our systems and facilities. We prioritize our work based on risks identified through an integrated planning process.

Embedding Public Safety into Our Operating Strategies

Although we are far from finished, we have taken numerous steps to promote public safety across all three of our operating lines of business:

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee joins Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation, to discuss the importance of upgrading the city’s infrastructure.

PG&E announced a $1.2 billion investment in San Francisco over the next five years, including new electric lines, gas pipelines and other upgrades that will modernize the city’s infrastructure and improve safety and reliability. The investment covers a variety of new and ongoing infrastructure projects, including building new high-voltage electric lines that will improve disaster resiliency, upgrading electrical substations, replacing natural gas pipelines and improving electrical distribution systems throughout the city.

  • Gas Operations: PG&E has made steady and continuous improvements to the safety of its gas system since the San Bruno accident. This includes substantial steps to verify and improve pipeline integrity, as well as responding more quickly when customers report smelling gas, using new technologies to better detect leaks, improving our record-keeping system, and fixing more leaks, more quickly, than ever before.
  • Electric Operations: PG&E is investing unprecedented resources in our electric system, including replacing significant amounts of the cables and wires that carry power to customers. Other priorities for enhancing safety and reliability include using technology to respond more quickly to equipment failures and managing vegetation along our electric lines to reduce the risk of fires and outages.
  • Energy Supply: Key areas of focus in our power generation operations include enhancing public safety outreach around our facilities and upgrading aging infrastructure associated with our vast hydroelectric system.

Increasing Coordination with First Responders and Emergency Officials

Coordination and communication between PG&E and officials who are first on the scene during an emergency are critical to keeping the public and first responders safe. To lead our efforts, PG&E established an Emergency Preparedness and Response organization with a focus on building upon and strengthening our processes and procedures.

A Cal Fire representative works with PG&E on a plan to remove vegetation and trees along five miles of power lines near the path of the fire.

When a fire in Placer County occurred close to our transmission and distribution lines, PG&E quickly formed a response team to provide on-site support. PG&E de-energized electric distribution lines to keep firefighters safe, sprayed about 500 power poles with fire retardant to keep the poles from burning and used excavators to remove trees along five miles of transmission lines.

In 2012, we hosted more than 400 training workshops to inform firefighters, police, public works officials and other authorities about the risks associated with electricity and natural gas which they may face responding to emergencies.

Our emergency response plan includes clear lines of responsibility for PG&E and emergency officials. PG&E also maintains a First Responder website with training materials and secure access for emergency officials to gas transmission infrastructure information and maps.

To test emergency response and coordination plans, PG&E also regularly participates with city agencies in emergency-preparedness drills. For example, last year in San Luis Obispo County, PG&E held an emergency drill with 500 people from approximately 50 different agencies, including fire and law enforcement, parks officials and FEMA, as well as PG&E employees.

We also help other U.S. communities and utilities struck by natural disasters. Last year, for instance, PG&E workers joined with record numbers of responders from other utilities to help restore service in the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy. More than 250 PG&E workers spent two weeks in New York and restored power to thousands of customers.

To help drive continuous improvement in our emergency response, PG&E has completed a major assessment of strengths and opportunities within our emergency management programs. This effort, together with extensive benchmarking of other industry leaders, has helped us identify several areas to help reduce risk and enhance our ability to respond to catastrophic incidents. Key areas of focus in 2013 include restoration and recovery strategies, end-to-end emergency response processes and procedures and strengthening external partnerships.

Raising Public Safety Awareness

Educating the public and local officials about electric and natural gas safety and disaster preparedness is an essential part of our overall commitment to safe operations. As a result, we regularly undertake a variety of outreach efforts and work closely with various community organizations who share our focus on these areas. Examples from last year include the following:

In 2012, PG&E donated $50,000 to Listos, a disaster preparedness program designed for Spanish-speaking residents. The PG&E funding supported program expansion into San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. Listos, which means “ready” in Spanish, provides potentially life-saving information to Spanish-speaking residents.

  • We launched a new public information campaign on radio, internet and billboards to alert people to the dangers of downed power lines, especially after storms, and reminding them to “stay away, don’t touch and call 911.”
  • As part of a nationwide initiative by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, we began outreach to residents and business owners immediately downstream from PG&E dams. Through written materials and open houses, we encourage people in dam inundation areas to have an evacuation plan and teach them to recognize signs of a dam breach.
  • We worked proactively with contractors, city and county agencies, and others to limit “dig in” incidents in which third-party workers damage buried gas and electric lines, creating hazards for the workers and the public. In 2012, third parties were responsible for over 1,000 such incidents in our service area.
  • We continued our long-standing partnership with the American Red Cross to improve disaster preparedness. In 2012, we provided a $2.5 million donation to the American Red Cross’ Ready Neighborhoods program, which is improving disaster readiness by transforming 50 underserved neighborhoods into model communities for preparedness. Last year, 10 neighborhoods in Northern and Central California took part.
811 awareness

We continue to educate homeowners and professional excavators on the importance of calling 811 before digging so that PG&E can clearly mark underground equipment, helping to prevent injuries, property damage and outages. An expanded PG&E campaign includes radio spots, billboards and appearances at public events such as street fairs. We are also launching task forces with local officials and first responders to highlight the importance of calling 811. (Watch a video to learn more.)

PG&E is promoting awareness of the importance of calling 811 in home improvement stores and on billboards throughout our service area.

Focusing on Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is emerging as the newest and one of the most important safety challenges for the utility industry, as information technology becomes increasingly integral to our operations and customer service. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has classified utility assets as a key resource and critical infrastructure for our national and economic security. PG&E is firmly committed to working with other utilities, other essential industries and government officials to develop and implement state-of-the-art cybersecurity strategies and best practices.

Our efforts are led by an Enterprise Technology Risk Management team, headed by our Senior Director and Chief of Information Security. This team of highly specialized security and industry experts constantly monitors national security intelligence for new threats, keeping a close eye on our systems and conducting ongoing tests to identify security gaps.

A major focus is raising awareness among employees and contractors about the critical role they play in protecting PG&E assets. This includes an Awareness Alert newsletter and a Cybersecurity Awareness intranet site to keep employees updated on the latest scams by cyber criminals, as well as general security best practices.

We are also introducing a new company-wide metric to measure security events involving the loss of PG&E assets, such as a lost company-issued laptop or mobile phone. Similar to Motor Vehicle Incidents and Lost Workdays, this metric will track Preventable Security Events by line of business so we can understand where we have opportunities to improve our communications and training.