The Pacific Northwest region was hit hard. We’re sending out experienced staff and deploying technology assets to assess the damage; that data will then go into modeling programs. We’ll look at before and after photos and burn patterns and develop solutions to build post-fire resilience.
We can also build models that will predict fire direction based on wind patterns and other data. This is exciting stuff. Ultimately, utility companies need to know immediately what’s in the path of a fire when it starts.
During the rainy season, utility companies worry about threats to recently fire-damaged assets. If you simply replace damaged poles, for example, landslides or mudflows might take them out again. Solutions could include putting in bigger and stronger poles, wrapping them in fire retardant, and adding bracing and guidewires.
You completed a cost-benefit analysis that showed mitigation strategies can save power companies money down the road.
Our analysis showed that for every $1 spent on mitigation activities, PSEG Long Island saved $8 or $9 in recovery costs from future events and disasters. It’s important to note that the savings from adopting and implementing mitigation strategies could be even higher, depending on the strategy. The National Institute of Building Sciences 2019 report, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves, stated it succinctly in the summary: “Based on the mitigation measures the project team examined for the Interim Report, mitigation remains a solid investment.”
Do you think those analyses will increase mitigation spending in the industry?
Yes. Because if you show utility companies what they’re paying today versus what they could be paying in the future, there’s no question that finding and building resilience in critical infrastructure makes sense.
What concrete steps can utility companies take before the next wildfire and hurricane season?
We’ve talked about most of them. Take a hard look at the assets needed to operate the power grid and complete a risk analysis. Ask important questions: what’s the status of vegetation management efforts in the service area? Are power lines located far enough from potential fire lines? What roles do communities play? Put together mitigation plans and strengthen the overall system; prepare data analytics and modeling; develop strategies for improving overall communications, including outreach to communities; complete damage assessments; and, finally, use funding sources, like FEMA’s BRIC program, to shore up critical infrastructure.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Building resilience into critical infrastructure must start before the next disaster happens, so now is the perfect time.
To learn more about how we’re partnering with leading utilities to build climate resilience, view our webinar with Con Edison.