Southern California Edison workers during the July 15 power outage that lasted nearly four days. File Photo.
Days before the hosting of a town hall meeting focused on the recent power outages and its effects on residents and businesses, the Long Beach City Council requested that city staff provide a public briefing detailing the city’s current protocols, including departmental roles during emergencies and the uses of technology to better inform the public during future crises.
The motion was introduced by First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who represents a portion of the city that was arguably the most affected by the two large power outages in July. The outages in question were centered in the city’s downtown and westside neighborhoods.
The briefing is expected to be part of the discussion at the council’s September 1 meeting.
“Although we will have a town hall this Saturday with some of our legislative representatives, I thought it was also important to bring something forward here at the city council level to understand the magnitude of what happened and understand our current plan as it stands,” Gonzalez said.
Both Gonzalez and Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal lauded the city staff’s response to the outages that struck the city on July 15 and July 30, which, at its peak, left tens of thousands of customers without power. Gonzalez said the response on social media was unprecedented, but she would still like to explore how the dissemination of information could be improved in the future.
“As far as technology and outreach, I feel like we did a great job on our end in getting out the information, but it would be great to know that it is streamlined and all in one place,” Gonzalez said. “How are our residents getting this information and how can we make it a little bit easier for people who may not have technology?”
Lowenthal said the city was fortunate to not have to go through these growing pains as a result of a natural disaster and that it shouldn’t squander this opportunity to learn from what worked and what didn’t.
The outages affected protocols at Southern California Edison, as evidenced by its marked increase in social media usage from the first power outage to the second.
The vice mayor said there is room for improvement, and the city should explore just how it can get better in its response.
“The recent outages were extremely difficult for our residents and our businesses, and I know none of us have seen anything like this before,” Lowenthal said. “What I can say is it offered a glimpse into the necessity for our city teams and community partners to review our protocols against what really happens in times of crises.”
Separate independent investigations are underway both by the city, state and by Edison itself. Just this week, the company announced the hiring of a consulting firm to assist in its efforts to determine what caused the series of underground fires and explosions that led to the outages.
The town hall meeting is scheduled to be held Saturday at Cesar Chavez Park where Senator Ricardo Lara, state assemblymen Anthony Rendon and Patrick O’Donnell, Mayor Robert Garcia and representatives from Edison will be in attendance. The meeting will serve as an educational opportunity for residents to learn what resources are available to them to recoup losses suffered during the outages.