On Wednesday, John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate, testified before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) during their prehearing conference on telecommunications during Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) events.  RCRC member counties are disproportionately impacted by these events, and RCRC was granted party status in the Emergency Disaster Relief Program (R.18-03-011) proceeding.  

Mr. Kennedy acknowledged the need for PSPS events, but advocated that such events must be “carefully planned, surgical in scope,” and “impacts to critical infrastructure and populations mitigated or avoided.” 

The first real PSPS events in 2018 caught many off guard with respect to impacts on critical services like water and wastewater infrastructure, private wells, and extended periods of time without basic services and necessities.  Moreover, the lack of consistent, accurate, and comprehensive communications during PSPS events can lead to catastrophic events, including loss of life.  Mr. Kennedy referenced a number of instances in a handful of rural counties where communication systems were down, impacting critical services to local residents.  “Communication systems are the backbone of our local public safety and emergency services systems,” said Kennedy.  These systems are integral to “enabling police and fire departments to coordinate the deployment of resources and respond to service calls, enabling residents to make emergency calls, the dissemination of information on PSPS events, and providing evacuation notices and coordinating evacuations.” 

It is imperative that California increase resiliency of its communication networks, and Mr. Kennedy advocated in support of “increased investment even as we strive to reduce risk and the use of PSPS events.”

The full hearing can be accessed here.  Mr. Kennedy’s testimony can be found at the 2:50 mark.