The ability to cut power in a tenth of a second is a reflex response from the enhanced power line safety setting installed all over the PG&E service territory. It is in place to try and avoid potentially catastrophic situations like wildfire.
The EPSS is a year-round fire prevention system that alerts and shuts power when its sensors are tripped. For the past three days, it's been set off by a non-heat-related issue, which could be anything from a branch to a bird. When tripped, it has shut power to much of the area near Los Osos Valley Rd. all the way down to the 101 freeway, affecting more than 2,000 customers.
The tool is unable to be turned off based on risk factors. The area affected is sandwiched in between two high fire danger areas. Right smack in the middle of Irish Hills and Cerro San Luis.
"We can't run the risk of something happening in these high fire-threat areas and us not knowing about it and not being able to turn the power off," explained Carina Corral, PG&E Communication Representative.
The EPSS is designed to prevent devastating disasters but in the past few days has been creating some disruptions of its own. Customers like Etta Campanella, feeling the effects on Labor Day.
"It seemed like an amazing amount of Labor Day traffic but it was really just a mass exodus of everyone leaving at the same time because of power outages and I believe home goods and the street lights were out, so we were just sitting in the Costco parking lot for a good unexpected hour," said Campanella.
PG&E engineers have been analyzing the data from the computer and say they are pretty confident that have figured out the issue and will be adjusting the settings on the EPSS so that hopefully these outages will no longer be a problem.