Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) recently completed significant upgrades to its Wildfire Safety Operations Center (WSOC) with the goal of helping further reduce wildfire risk. Located at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco and opened in May 2018 as an additional safety precaution, the emergency center serves as the PG&E’s 24X7 hub for monitoring wildfire risks, and coordinating prevention and response efforts across Northern and Central California.
The center offers a birds-eye view of the PG&E high fire-threat areas, which encompass about 50% of the company’s 70,000-sq mi service area. The center also assimilates weather model information, satellite images, and other enhanced, real-time data for experts tracking wildfire conditions and threats.
Data from the PG&E’s network of nearly 440 weather stations, 40 high-definition cameras in high fire-threat areas, and observations from the PG&E field crews are fed directly to WSOC employees. Data collected by the weather stations is available to state and local agencies, and the public through online sources such as the National Weather Service and MesoWest.
The WSOC is part of the PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program, launched in 2018 to reduce wildfire threats and strengthen communities for the future. In addition to improving real-time monitoring and intelligence capabilities at the WSOC, other actions the PG&E is taking as part of the program include new and enhanced safety measures and doing more over the long-term to strengthen the safety and resiliency of the electric grid to further reduce future wildfire risks.
The PG&E’s WSOC team plays a key role in evaluating whether to proactively turn off power for safety when elevated weather conditions include a potential fire risk.
“The newly completed upgrades to our WSOC provide additional critical tools to enable our team of experts to monitor wildfire risks across our service territory,” said Sumeet Singh, PG&E vice president of the Community Wildfire Safety Program. “The WSOC played a vital role as considered and then subsequently initiated two Public Safety Power Shutoffs in June.”
While no single factor drives a Public Safety Power Shutoff, the PG&E carefully reviews a combination of criteria. These factors generally include, but are not limited to:
- A Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Low humidity levels, generally 20% and below
- Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts more than approximately 45 mph, depending on location and site-specific conditions such as temperature, terrain, and local climate
- Condition of dry fuel on the ground and live vegetation (moisture content)
More information can be found here.