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Prepped for fire season

Public Safety Power Shutoffs remain in effect

EUGENE: “Focusing on operational readiness and honing in on our research and development” was how Jeannine Parisi characterized the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s plans for counteracting weather-related fire dangers. The utility’s strategic planning manager’s presentation to the utility commissioners last week also noted that “communication is the most important part of PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoffs).”

Last year EWEB had planned to increase the sensitivity of powerline shutoffs when a “Red Flag” fire weather watch was declared. “What we learned pretty quickly is that red flag warnings can be quick, and short-lived, and pretty burdensome to respond to quickly” added Tyler Nice. Instead, he said, the settings went into effect in July and continued unrtil the fire danger level dropped in the fall.

As EWEB’s electric operations manager, Nice said his department’s research and development efforts will focus investments on specific service area circuits and rely more on actual “boots on the ground experience.” Part of that process will involve more ride-along analysis of outage areas to include members of crews that responded to a particular outage because they’re likely to suggest specific improvements. Under new technology considerations, Nice said evaluations are underway that could see upgrades to non-expulsion powerline fuses that could decrease the chance of igniting nearby vegetation.

Parisi also reported that EWEB is looking into customers' needs who could be especially vulnerable during outages. Some considerations could include peopke who need electrical power for medical devices ranging from CPAP machines or heart monitors to ventilators or motorized wheelchairs.

“We’re trying to create an opt-in program so folks can let us know they have special needs,” she said.

Other services might include arranging transportation, help in evacuating or developing safety plans, as well as setting up welfare checks for people who opt out of leaving their homes.

While those needs are beyond the scope of the utility’s traditional role, she said arrangements could be made with the utility’s interagency partners “to make sure folks are safe.”


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