October 24, 2003

Unprecedented protective outage measure is designed to help reduce risk of wildfire outbreaks and protect lives in vulnerable mountainous regions.

INLAND EMPIRE, Calif., Oct. 24, 2003—To mitigate the risk of wildfire outbreaks similar to those that swept across mountainous regions of the southland this week, Southern California Edison announced today that it may take the unprecedented precautionary step of shutting down power in bark beetle-infested forests in San Bernardino and Riverside counties under hazardous conditions of high, sustained winds and low humidity. 

This new protective outage policy affects some 31,000 SCE customers in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains, where more than a million trees are dead or dying.

“We regret that a combination of extraordinary circumstances has made this emergency action absolutely necessary as an urgent, extra precaution to reduce the risk to lives and property,” said Larry Grant, SCE vice president for power delivery.  “When high winds strike the bark beetle-infested forest, weakened tree limbs and other material are more likely to fall or get blown into SCE facilities.  This could result in wildfires.” 

“We deeply regret the inconvenience that power interruptions would have on the affected homes and businesses due to these unprecedented forest conditions,” Grant said.  “Outages could last from several hours up to several days.  However, we will work as quickly as possible to restore power after wind conditions subside so our customers can resume their normal lives.  But we want them to understand that the restoration process takes time due to safety procedures and protocols that we must follow.  We appreciate everyone’s patience through this period of uncertainty.”

Before interrupting power, SCE will attempt to notify affected customers through its automated customer notification telephone system that hazardous wind condition exists and a power outage is imminent. However, it may not be possible to notify all customers directly in advance in all instances if conditions change rapidly or unexpectedly.  The public is advised to check local cable TV and radio stations for warnings and instructions. 

Meanwhile, SCE continues the effort of removing the hundreds of thousands of dead and diseased trees that threaten electrical lines and facilities—an extensive process that will take several years to complete. 
To better cope with any scheduled or unscheduled power outage, SCE advises mountain customers to:

  • Check on the medical needs of family and neighbors.
  • Use flashlights.  Don’t use candles, which can start fires.
  • Keep battery-powered radio with fresh batteries to stay informed.
  • Maintain at least three-quarters of a tank of gasoline in your vehicle(s). Gas station pumps do not operate during power outages. 
  • Have alternate, back-up arrangements in place to keep perishable food chilled and fresh in the event of prolonged outages.  Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible during an outage. A well-filled, unopened freezer will keep food frozen for hours without electricity.
  • Never connect a portable generator directly to a power line.  State law requires that customers inform us when a generator is being used at a home or business.  Call us at 1-800-655-4555.
  • Never touch a power line suspended in the air or lying on the ground.

For further information, customers may call SCE at 1-800-655-4555 or visit the utility’s Website  at www.sce.com/barkbeetle.

# # #

An Edison International company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of more than 12 million via 4.5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within central, coastal and Southern California.