Letter from Supervisor Keith Carson to PG & E


August 20, 2018

Nick Stavropoulos, President and Chief Operating Officer
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
P.O. Box 997300
Sacramento, CA 95899-7300

RE: Community Wildfire Safety Program

Dear Mr. Stavropoulos:

On behalf of Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Alameda County Public Health Department, we write to express concern regarding the Community Wildfire Safety Program’s possible unintended consequences for medically vulnerable residents and those who may need special consideration in planning for emergency preparedness.

The Community Wildfire Safety Program is an important preventive measure to increase public safety, potentially necessitating the shut-off of electricity to customers served by PG&E electric lines that run through extreme fire-threat areas. As a local health department, Alameda County Public Health (ACPHD) is responsible for our county’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness program which entails supporting community resilience to prepare for and recover from emergencies; incident management to coordinate an effective response; information management; deploying medicines and supplies where needed; expanding medical services to handle large events; and investigating and identifying health threats. As wildfires and other climate-driven extreme weather events continue to expand and pose greater risk to more communities, our county would like to offer our partnership to more effectively coordinate efforts that protect public safety.

In addition, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors believe our role is to support strong policies to ensure access to resources that support the health and well-being of all our communities, including our most vulnerable. It is important that programs take into consideration certain households in any preemptive service shut-off, namely people with serious medical vulnerability, elders, and young children. Energy insecurity is also increasingly an important social and public health concern. Utility shutoffs in general disproportionately impact lower-income families, which predominantly consist of communities of color, people for whom English is a second language, as well as those who are elderly, physically disabled or have serious medical conditions. The loss of basic electricity or gas service causes tremendous hardship and undue stress, including increased risk of pneumonia, flu, bronchitis, colds, heat stroke, sanitation issues, over-reliance on emergency services and underutilization of preventive programs. For medically vulnerable residents dependent on health devices, the loss of service could represent not just a temporary inconvenience but a potential risk to their lives.

For these reasons, we would like to raise the possibility for PG&E to consider adapting its Community Wildfire Safety program to take into account special needs for its customers with medical baseline, life support needs, or certification that they have a serious illness or condition that could become life threatening if service is disconnected. In addition, we believe it is important to include special consideration of low-income customers without the resources to make alternative arrangements in the event of blackouts.

Please contact us with any questions. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely,

Keith Carson, Alameda County Supervisor, District 5
Chair of the Personnel Administration Legislation Committee

Kimi Watkins-Tartt
Interim Director, Alameda County Public Health Department

Erica Pan, MD, MPH
Interim Alameda County Health Officer

1221 OAK STREET SUITE 555 OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA 94612 510 272-6984 FAX 510 272-3784 www.acgov.org

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