City Statement Regarding October 26, 2020 Power Outages During Santa Ana Wind Event and Red Flag Fire Conditions
The City of Malibu learned of a widespread unplanned power outage impacting western Malibu on Monday, October 26 at approximately 9:30 AM. At the request of the City Manager, Los Angele County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to assist with traffic lights that were disabled at (Pacific Coast Highway) PCH and Corral Canyon Road, and at Zumirez Drive and Heathercliff Road.
The City issued traffic alerts at 10:19 AM and10:29 AM, and a utility alert at 10:34 AM. In addition to these alerts, the City issued two other traffic alerts regarding road closures due to fallen trees from the winds. City staff also posted notifications on social media, Nextdoor, the front page of the City website and the City’s phone hotline.
If a fire had broken out that necessitated evacuations, the City would have deployed emergency generators to the traffic signals on PCH to help facilitate traffic management. The City's emergency generators were purchased with the intent to provide power to traffic signals in the event of a fire and evacuations. They are not intended to provide power to traffic signals for general power outages. PCH and traffic signals on PCH are owned and operated by Caltrans and the State of California. The City does not own or operate the traffic signals, however, the City’s PCH Signal Synchronization Project, slated to commence in 2022, will provide a permanent backup power source to PCH signals between Coastline and John Tyler.
The City received an initial warning from Southern California Edison (SCE) at 2:24 PM on Monday regarding a possible future Public Safety Power Shut-Off (PSPS) on the Cuthbert Circuit that covers the general area from Latigo Canyon to Bonsall Drive. The City also received messages on Monday regarding power outages on Malibu Road, and on Tuesday received PSPS messages regarding Malibu Road. However, according to Edison, a PSPS event did not happen anywhere in Malibu.
The City was in regular communication with SCE on Monday and Tuesday to try to obtain clarifications and updated information to provide to the community. SCE has stated that due to the numerous issues that were occurring simultaneously throughout its service area, they were unable to provide timely information to the City and the community.
The normal protocol for a PSPS event is that SCE is required to notify partner agencies and customers 48 hours, then again 24 hours, in advance, any time SCE is considering shutting off power to prevent its equipment from starting wildfires during extremely dangerous fire conditions (high winds, Santa Anas, high temperatures and low humidities). Whenever SCE notifies the City that it is considering a PSPS for any circuit in Malibu, the City sends out emergency alerts and warning messages on the website, social media, Nextdoor and the phone hotline. Ever since SCE began implementing Public Safety Power Shutoffs, the City also has been conducting ongoing public awareness efforts to help the community be prepared for a PSPS or any widespread power outage.
City staff are scheduled to participate in a debrief call with SCE officials on Thursday, October 29 to discuss the communication issues and conflicting messages that were issued regarding power outages and PSPS.