Southern California Edison violated safety rules, discarded evidence and used outdated crisis plans when responding to a 2011 windstorm that pummeled swaths of the Southland, leaving more than 400,000 without power, according to a report issued Monday.
The California Public Utilities Commission found that Edison and other utility providers violated power pole safety standards. State regulators also said SCE personnel did not follow a training schedule outlined in its local public affairs plan and concluded that the amount of time it took to restore power to several thousand customers was "inadequate.
"The report confirmed what many have been saying all along - many of the problems could have been averted had SCE simply followed better safety protocols," Temple City Councilman Tom Chavez, whose city was among those hardest hit from the windstorm, said in a statement.
Other utilities cited in the report for violations included AT&T, Champion Broadband, Charter Communications, Sunesys, Time Warner Cable, TW Telecom, and Verizon. All jointly own poles with SCE.
The PUC also admonished SCE for destroying "crucial evidence."
"I am especially disappointed in the lack of preservation of evidence by SCE, which not only hindered the investigation, but could have helped in determining how to avoid future accidents," Chavez said.
SCE officials did not comment.
PUC officials made six recommendations to SCE, including to update emergency procedures, follow a training schedule and annually test its plan with a full-scale exercise.
The Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2011 windstorm affected more than 440,000 SCE customers, including about 205,000 customers in the San Gabriel Valley. It caused more than $34 million in public sector damages in the Los Angeles County area. Some households and businesses were without power for up to eight days.
The PUC report also includes some of the first calculations of wind speeds during the two-day storm, chronicling near-hurricane force - or greater - winds at several locations. Among the data: Mt. Washington experienced winds of 101 miles per hour at 1:18 a.m. and winds of 150 mph were recorded at Henninger Flats at 3:58 a.m. on Dec. 1.
A weather station at Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale recorded wind speeds of 65 mph on Nov. 30 and 68 mph on Dec. 1. The dam is less than two miles from a large SCE facility.
SCE officials have previously said their response was successful because no one got hurt during or after the storm. Company officials said they take PUC findings seriously.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, said it was "beyond disappointing" to see that neglected safety regulations was the cause of a number of downed power poles and electrical outages after the storm.
"This report confirms that by following such regulations, and by asking for mutual assistance, power could have been restored more quickly," Chu said in a statement.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, said steps must be taken to prevent any reoccurrence.
"During times of emergency like this, call centers must be fully staffed and answer residents' questions quickly and efficiently," he said in a statement.
Former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino said he was pleased the CPUC made "significant and strong recommendations of improving performance and public safety" in the future.
The report also highlights the need for A.B. 1650, which Portantino introduced and Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last year. The law requires investor-owned electric and water utilities to develop, adopt and update emergency and disaster preparedness plans in coordination with the counties and cities they serve, he said.
Last year, a third-party report commissioned by SCE found that the utility's power restoration time for the windstorm could have been shortened by as much as two days.
Among the key findings of the Davies Consulting report, released last April, were that the utility needed to develop an emergency response vision and a damage assessment process, to significantly expand the role and authority of SCE's emergency management group and define expectations with external emergency management agencies.