Public Safety

PG&E’s average response time to gas emergencies, ranking in the top 10% among natural gas utilities

We are working every day to further embed public safety into our operating strategies. This includes a continued focus on enhancing the integrity of our gas, electric and energy supply infrastructure and increasing public awareness of potential hazards associated with our systems and facilities.

Our Approach

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

  • Gas Operations: PG&E has made continuous improvements to the safety of our gas system since the San Bruno accident. This includes a large-scale effort to conduct extensive safety testing, replace and upgrade vast amounts of infrastructure, install new monitoring and control technologies, and manage vegetation along our gas transmission pipelines to prevent pipeline damage and provide a line of sight along right-of-ways. It also includes launching a best-in-class corrective action program to support our safety culture.
  • Electric Operations: PG&E is investing significant resources to modernize our electric operations, including upgrading the grid, using new technology to respond more quickly to equipment failures, managing vegetation along our electric lines to reduce the risk of fires and outages, and giving employees additional training.
  • Energy Supply: Key areas of focus in our power generation operations include enhancing public safety outreach in communities around our facilities and upgrading aging infrastructure associated with our vast hydroelectric system.

Resources for Gas Safety

PG&E created a series of short videos aimed at providing gas safety tips for customers in an engaging and easy-to-understand format. Available online for the public, the series includes topics such as pipeline safety, carbon monoxide safety and gas appliance safety.

2013 Milestones

We took many steps in 2013 in our effort to build strong and effective community partnerships that help ensure public safety.

Call Before You Dig

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. We also launched task forces with local officials and first responders in the Central Valley, on the Peninsula in the Bay Area, in Alameda County and in Solano County to highlight the importance of calling 811.

Increased 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 a new company-wide Emergency Preparedness and Response organization to strengthen emergency processes and procedures with a focus on catastrophic hazards like earthquakes.

Our emergency response plan—which is developed, shared and tested with emergency officials—defines clear lines of responsibility for PG&E and emergency officials. PG&E also maintains a secured First Responder website where emergency officials can access training materials and gas transmission infrastructure information and maps.

Key highlights last year included:

  • Hosted more than 600 training workshops to better prepare firefighters, police, public works officials and other authorities to respond to emergencies involving electricity and natural gas.
  • Regularly participated in emergency-preparedness drills with city agencies to test emergency response and coordination plans.

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 that share our focus on these areas. Examples from last year include the following:

Interactive Safety Demonstrations

To help raise awareness about safety, PG&E has widely deployed an interactive electric and gas safety demonstration board. Designed for students, youth groups, contractors, emergency personnel and customers, the program enables trained PG&E gas and electric professionals to teach communities about being safe around the gas and electric services we provide. In 2013, we conducted more than 1,150 demonstrations in communities throughout our service area.

  • Led a public information campaign on radio, internet and billboards to alert people to the dangers of downed power lines, especially after storms, and remind them to “stay away, don’t touch and call 911.”
  • Conducted outreach to residents and business owners immediately downstream from PG&E dams as part of a nationwide initiative by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Through written materials and open houses, we encouraged people in dam watershed areas to have an evacuation plan and taught them to recognize signs of a dam breach.
  • Worked proactively with contractors, city and county agencies, and others to reduce “dig in” incidents in which third-party workers damage buried gas and electric lines, creating hazards for the workers and the public. In 2013, third parties were responsible for more than 2,100 such incidents in our service area.

PG&E and American Red Cross Boost Emergency Readiness

We continued our long-standing partnership with the American Red Cross to improve disaster preparedness. In 2013, this included a rally to boost emergency readiness as part of a $2.5 million donation to the American Red Cross’ Ready Neighborhoods program, which is improving disaster readiness in underserved neighborhoods in Northern and Central California.

(Photo by Matt Nauman)


Cybersecurity is 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 continuously identifies, evaluates and mitigates cybersecurity risks across the enterprise.

Identifying and evaluating cybersecurity risk revolves around understanding business processes and core enabling technologies, while providing ongoing monitoring of our infrastructure and external threat landscape. Once risks are identified and prioritized, we develop mitigation plans to ensure an acceptable level of risk exposure.

Cybersecurity training and awareness continues to be a major focus for all employees and contractors, emphasizing the critical role they play in protecting PG&E assets. All PG&E employees are required to take an annual information security and privacy awareness course, and leaders are subject to additional coursework to further integrate cybersecurity awareness into our culture.

Physical Security

PG&E is also increasingly focused on the physical security of our assets and infrastructure. In 2013, gunshots caused extensive damage to PG&E’s Metcalf substation near San Jose. Although no one was hurt and PG&E did not experience any customer outages as a result, we have worked collaboratively with agencies at the federal, state and local levels to enhance the security of critical substations across our service area.

Improvements underway at various substations include new barriers at the perimeter and shielding for certain equipment. We are also installing more cameras that capture images inside and outside the fencing, and removing nearby brush and other vegetation that can block the cameras’ line of sight. For our most critical facilities, we are studying advanced detection technology such as night vision and thermal imaging.

PG&E is investing approximately $100 million over three years to increase substation security for its highest-priority facilities. We have also worked hand-in-hand with other utilities, the Edison Electric Institute and independent security experts. Many of the measures being taken are a result of this coordinated, cooperative effort. PG&E and the utility industry are committed to continuing this kind of essential collaboration by continually sharing information and best practices to stay ahead of any threats.

PG&E Joins Forces on Emergency Preparedness

PG&E and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department launched a public awareness campaign designed to make the region one of the most emergency-prepared counties in the nation.

Measuring Progress

To track our progress and promote continuous improvement, PG&E uses a set of formal public safety metrics, in addition to numerous employee safety measures. We have also taken industry-leading steps to link compensation to safety performance. Safety metrics determine 40 percent of management employees’ annual at-risk performance-based pay, making safety the single largest driver for annual at-risk performance-based pay. Financial performance and customer service represent 25 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

A number of accomplishments in 2013 demonstrated continued progress on enhancing public safety, including the following:

  • Improvements in our average response time to gas and electric emergencies
  • Reductions in the number of instances of electric “wires down”
  • Improvements in our performance in repairing gas leaks

Simple Steps Can Help Customers Prepare for Emergencies

PG&E encourages customers to be prepared for emergencies. Simple steps we promote include preparing an emergency supply kit and making an emergency communication plan for the family.

Looking Ahead

We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to public safety and prioritize our work based on risks identified through an integrated planning process. Our efforts will include meeting new standards, increasing transparency and accountability with public commitments and reporting on safety metrics, deploying improved technologies, strengthening our training and work procedures, and making major upgrades to basic infrastructure.

Emergency Drill Tests PG&E’s Readiness Before Major Quake

PG&E held a two-day drill to test our readiness for a major earthquake. PG&E set up a base camp that would have served as a base of operations for large crews who would travel to the Bay Area after a major earthquake. Drills are essential because events like earthquakes strike with no advance warning.

(Photo by James Green)

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