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PG&E Utilizes Advanced Design, Construction And Technology To Strengthen Its Readiness For Catastrophic Earthquakes

SAN FRANCISCO, April 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Serving an active earthquake region, advanced preparation for natural disasters is a top priority for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to help ensure safe and reliable operations. During Earthquake Preparedness Month in April, and on the anniversary of the Great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the utility is sharing information about its continuous improvement efforts to strengthen its facilities and preparedness for catastrophic earthquakes.

In respect to earthquake readiness, PG&E has a well-established Geosciences Department staffed with engineers and seismologists who have been dedicated to earthquake and geotechnical risk mitigation since 1985. They also support PG&E's emergency planning through the development of innovative tools that help prioritize where to dispatch PG&E response teams when major earthquakes strike.

Some examples of the work PG&E does to strengthen its system for earthquakes include:
  • Utilization of more earthquake resistant circuit breakers and insulators in electric substations
  • Replacement of cast iron gas distribution lines with modern, plastic pipe that is more flexible and resilient during an earthquake
  • Replacement of gas transmission pipeline in fault areas that incorporates advanced metallurgical and geological design factors and allows the modern pipe to move like a spring within a forgiving trench during an earthquake
  • Installation of automated shut-off valves on gas transmission lines in fault areas

PG&E also utilizes industry leading earthquake simulation models and real-time maps of earthquake ground shaking intensity to develop resiliency plans, estimate resource needs and enable rapid dispatch of response personnel to areas that experienced the most severe shaking.

"Our use of industry leading methods, models and technology will help us be better prepared to get communities back on their feet following a catastrophic earthquake," said Barry Anderson, the utility's vice president of emergency preparedness and response. "Earthquake models help us identify where potential impacts could occur, so we can harden our system and respond more quickly to keep the public safe."

Following a recent 6.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Eureka on Sunday, March 9, PG&E utilized these models which, based on the location of the epicenter, predicted that the ground shaking was unlikely to substantially impact PG&E's infrastructure in the area. The models helped deploy PG&E's field teams to conduct inspections and confirm that no significant impacts had occurred.

While PG&E is focused on making its operations safer and more resilient to catastrophic earthquakes, the utility also supports earthquake preparedness in the communities it serves through partnership with first responders and through support of the American Red Cross.

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