Better Disaster Planning Passes Key Legislative Hurdle

 Assemblymember Anthony Portantino’s bill to improve emergency and disaster preparedness in California was approved today in the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee.

 AB 1650 requires public utilities to hold comprehensive disaster preparedness meetings every two years with the counties and cities they service in order to improve readiness and better prepare for natural disasters.   In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission will help set standards for each utility to meet.

 “In the wake of the fierce winds and power outages that caused so much damage in Southern California late last year, we need to be better organized for the next disaster,” explained Assemblymember Portantino. “The purpose of these meetings is to inform local and county governments and the public about emergency preparedness plans and give them the opportunity to review and improve those plans. In this last disaster, communications were often incomplete or confusing and much of the public had no idea what was going on.  Valid questions were raised whether our local utilities were ready. We all know another disaster will hit our communities and we need to be prepared.”

A report commissioned by Southern California Edison earlier this year said the utility could be better prepared for a major disaster and could have cut its response time to the December wind disaster if it had been.

Under AB 1650, investor owned utilities will be required to begin their disaster preparedness meetings within three months of the legislation becoming law.

The bill now goes to Senate Appropriations before going on to the full Senate later this summer.