Video credit: Ernesto Sanchez, Roberto Lazarte and Joseph Foulk
In the past, during red flag warnings, Southern California Edison’s meteorologists used then state-of-the-art weather modeling that could forecast high fire risk conditions within a two-mile area.
That was helpful in narrowing the locations that could pose potential problems across SCE’s 50,000-square-mile territory, but wind, heat and humidity can vary widely in an area that size, especially if it includes canyons or hillsides.
As of June 1, SCE’s meteorologists secured new state-of-the-art software with a high-resolution weather model that can now forecast weather conditions down to a third of a mile area.
“That will really help to improve our data gathering technology,” said Paul Roller, the lead of three SCE meteorologists.
Separately, SCE installed 25 solar-powered weather stations in high fire risk areas across its territory, with a goal of 100 more stations by September. The weather stations provide wind speed, wind gusts, temperature, humidity and solar radiation readouts every 10 minutes. They can also help validate and improve weather modeling.
The new weather model and weather stations are just two of several initiatives SCE is undertaking to further enhance fire prevention and safety efforts to protect the public and employees.
It will also help in extreme weather conditions when SCE is considering a public safety power shutoff to protect the public in high fire risk areas.
“We continually look at technology that will better prepare us to respond more effectively to anything that can take place,” said Don Daigler, SCE director of business resiliency. “It is an extension of the work we’ve been doing for a number of years.”
Having the meteorologists in the Situational Awareness Center at the EOC gives us real-time access to the people and the weather information in one central location.
To enhance that effort, SCE created a Situational Awareness Center as part of the company’s Emergency Operations Center. The EOC acts as the company’s nerve center for 24/7 planning and emergency response.
By being stationed at the EOC, the meteorologists and the geographic information system specialists who work with them on mapping circuits and equipment can be directly integrated into the planning for and response to significant events.
The Situational Awareness Center is a dedicated room that includes five curved work stations, each with five screens to display maps and other data. There is room for up to three meteorologists and two GIS mapping specialists. One wall has large monitors to display other information about the event.
“Having the meteorologists in the Situational Awareness Center at the EOC gives us real-time access to the people and the weather information in one central location,” Daigler said.
In addition to updated weather modeling, SCE is participating with the Orange County Fire Authority in a program to install cameras and weather stations in remote areas in that county. SCE provided $100,000 to expedite the installation of cameras and a weather monitoring station on SCE’s telecommunications tower on Santiago Peak as well as in other Orange County locations which can be remotely monitored.
“We are working collaboratively to put in high resolution cameras to identify fires and get resources dispatched more quickly,” Daigler said.
All of this information will be at the meteorologists’ fingertips in the Situational Awareness Center as well as for their day-to-day forecasting. These tools are expected to strengthen SCE’s current prevention strategies and increase coordination with first responders and affected communities when a wildfire starts.
“We used to just support emergency planning and response,” said Roller. “Now we are in the center of things at the EOC.”
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