PG&E readies exercise to test response for catastrophic earthquake

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will conduct a two-day, large-scale exercise to test its preparedness and response plans for a simulated magnitude 7.2 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault.

The drill involves more than 750 employees working in coordination with 24 emergency centers throughout PG&E‘s service area. These annual exercises test new technology and processes that the utility has implemented to improve its response to catastrophic events, including damage models and assessments, rapid logistics support, gas leak detection tools and portable information technology.

“This is a very comprehensive exercise that will test all aspects of PG&E’s catastrophic response plan. We continue to make investments in new technology and infrastructure that make our gas and electric systems more resilient to catastrophic earthquakes than ever before. Equally important are the investments we are making to continuously improve and ensure our readiness. All of our efforts are focused on getting impacted communities back on their feet as quickly as possible,” said Barry Anderson, vice president of emergency preparedness and operations for PG&E.

PG&E’s Emergency Preparedness and Operations organization ensures the company responds safely and effectively to all types of emergencies. The utility plays a key role in returning communities back to normal following a natural disaster. This includes training and coordination between PG&E employees and local first responders and working with local governments to establish base camp locations that help expedite restoration in the most impacted communities. In the Bay Area alone, PG&E has 14 base camp agreements to support local communities in the aftermath of a disastrous earthquake or storm.

Since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, PG&E has hardened its infrastructure and built more resilient gas and electric systems for customers. Some examples include:

·      Replacement of cast iron gas distribution lines with modern, plastic pipe that is more flexible and resilient during an earthquake

·      Replacement of gas transmission pipeline in fault areas to incorporate advanced design factors that improve the pipe’s resiliency for earthquakes

·      Installation of automated shut-off valves on gas transmission lines in fault areas

·      Installation of rollers underneath large substation transformers

·      Replacement of ceramic insulators with flexible polymer insulators inside substations

·      Installation of automated switch technology that “self-heals” damaged electric distribution circuits and restores power to a majority of impacted customers in about 3-5 minutes

While PG&E has robust emergency response plans, earthquakes can be powerful forces of nature that can disrupt essential services. We encourage our customers to have their own personal plans for emergencies as well. To help customers develop plans for earthquakes and other natural disasters, useful preparedness information can be found at websites for the American Red Cross, the California Office of Emergency Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and PG&E. The Red Cross also has Natural Disaster apps for your smart phone that provide helpful information for earthquakes and other types of emergencies.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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