Posted on March 15, 2013

New Organization Will Sharpen PG&E’s Response to Emergencies

By Matt Nauman

PG&E has created a company-wide Emergency Management organization to ensure that the necessary tools, people and processes are in place before a disaster strikes.

The new group was announced today (March 15) by PG&E President Chris Johns.

PG&E electric crews worked alongside a Con Edison employee to energize eight customers in Queens in November in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. (Currents Archive Photo.)

“The new organization will be charged with strengthening how PG&E prepares for and then responds to an emergency,” Johns said. Its tasks will include damage and resource modeling, logistics support, communications and alignment with local governments and emergency responders.

PG&E has greatly expanded its working relationship with these responders since the 2010 San Bruno pipeline accident. In 2012 alone, PG&E held 390 workshops with first responders throughout its service area.

Geisha Williams, PG&E’s executive vice president of electric operations, will lead the new organization in addition to her other duties. Williams is a recognized leader in emergency preparedness and management. Barry Anderson, PG&E’s senior director of electric distribution system operations, will head the organization on an interim basis as the company conducts a search for a vice president of emergency management.

“We all know that we live and work in an area that is prone to any number of hazards, such as wildfires and earthquakes,” said Williams. “Our customers expect and deserve to receive the safest, most reliable and affordable gas and electric service possible, and we have an obligation as a company to do everything we possibly can to be prepared to face these challenges when and if they arise.”

The team, which will be known as the Emergency Management Advancement Program (EMAP), will work with existing departments to focus on improving planning and response. Multiple departments within PG&E, including gas and electric operations, energy supply, information technology and customer care, will be involved in the effort.

“This new organization will elevate our ability to respond to catastrophic events,” said Anderson. PG&E will incorporate lessons learned by other utilities after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005 and after Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast last fall.

PG&E sent more than 250 electric workers and others to help restore power after Sandy. “We learned a lot from Sandy,” Anderson said.

Those lessons included having access to the proper equipment, tools, supplies and people in greater numbers than were previously thought, he said. Having robust logistics and communications plans are key steps to being prepared, and drills will be used to test the readiness of these plans.

Standing up an organization with this type of specific focus reflects industry best practices, Anderson said. “We know these types of events will happen. We don’t know when or where, but we know it’s just a matter of time,” he said.

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