Hundreds of Employees Converge on Vacaville and Other Locations to Practice Getting Ready for the Big One
VACAVILLE, Calif.— Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) conducted a large-scale earthquake exercise on Thursday, Jan. 23, at its new emergency operations center in Vacaville.
Hundreds of PG&E employees at that location and elsewhere across the service area took part in the emergency exercise, which simulated a magnitude 7.0 earthquake with the epicenter near Oakland and subsequent aftershocks in the East Bay Area.
The company was joined by representatives of several agencies, as either observers or participants, including the Edison Electric Institute, the California Office of Emergency Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bay Area Rapid Transit, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Independent System Operator and the Department of Energy.
“We live in earthquake country, and seismologists say that the Big One is not a matter of if, but when. PG&E has a plan and we practiced executing that plan in a real world scenario. It’s vitally important that our customers are prepared, too, by having individual and family emergency plans, go bags and making sure PG&E has your updated contact information,” said Mark Quinlan, Senior Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response for PG&E.
The simulated quake caused massive damage throughout the nine-county Bay Area; about 1.5 million PG&E electric customers and about 200,000 gas customers lost service. Assessments began shortly after the quake, but the company told customers that full restoration could take weeks, even with a large influx of mutual-aid and contract crews.
Under the direction of the Emergency Operations Center Commander, PG&E employees from nearly every organization from gas and electric operations to corporate security and customer care took part in the exercise.
The 30,000-square-foot PG&E Vacaville Emergency Response Center opened in 2019. A purpose-built critical facility, it has redundant utility power, backup generator power and backup and telecom infrastructure. To improve earthquake structural resilience, the facility was constructed to a 1.5 Importance Factor, which is 50 percent above the California commercial building standard. It contains emergency operations for electric, gas and energy procurement.
Get Ready for Natural Disasters Before They Happen:
- Prepare an emergency plan and conduct an emergency drill with your family.
- Prepare an evacuation plan for your home. Each room should have at least two ways to escape in case one is blocked. Establish a place where your family can reunite.
- Establish an alternative way to contact others who are not home, such as an out-of-the-area telephone contact.
- Prepare and maintain an emergency preparedness kit with enough supplies on hand to be self-sufficient for at least three days, and preferably up to one week.
- Know where your gas service shutoff valve is, and how to shut off your gas supply. The main shutoff valve is normally near your gas meter and will require the use of a 12- to 15-inch adjustable pipe or crescent-type wrench or other suitable tool.
- Know which of your appliances use gas and where the appliance shutoff valves are. In some cases, turning off the gas at the appliance shutoff valve will suffice.
- Know where the main electric switch is and how to turn off your electric supply.
Know What to Do After an Emergency:
- Check for injuries and ensure that everyone is safe.
- Check for damage. If you smell or hear gas escaping inside your home or business, get everyone outside immediately to a location upwind where you no longer can smell natural gas. Do not use electrical switches, appliances or phones because sparks can ignite gas. Do not check for a gas leak with a match or an open flame. Once outside, use your phone from a safe distance to call 911 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.
- If you smell or hear gas escaping inside your home or business, shut off the gas at the appliance valve or the main gas service valve if you can do so safely.
- Once you shut off the gas, DO NOT turn it back on. Contact PG&E or another qualified professional to perform a safety inspection before the gas service is restored and the gas appliance pilots are re-lit.
- If the power goes out, turn off all electric appliances to avoid overloading circuits and fire hazards when power is restored. Leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns. Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.
- During a power outage, use battery-operated flashlights instead of candles due to the risk of fire. If you must use candles, keep them away from drapes, lamp shades and small children and never leave them unattended.
- Treat all downed power lines as if they are energized and extremely dangerous. Keep yourself and others away from them. Call 911, and then notify PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.