CEO Messages

With Wildfires a Constant Threat, Partnership with PG&E More Vital Than Ever       

Though the winter had record rainfall and snow, and spring has seen — at least for now — below average temperatures, the threat of wildfires always looms large in our region. In fact, we have already seen some wildfires over the past few weeks, though nothing compared to what our friends on the East Coast are dealing with.  

And while we cannot control all the factors that spark these wildfires, Hospital Council’s work with PG&E continues to help in many ways. A big part of PG&E’s wildfire mitigation is the use of public safety power shutoffs (PSPS). First implemented a few years ago, these are an important tool used by PG&E to de-energize power lines during high wind events in areas that are prone to wildfires. In fact, Hospital Council’s partnership with PG&E has reduced hospital impacts from PSPS events to almost zero.    One of the hospitals that knows about PSPS and wildfires all too well is Adventist St. Helena. That’s why last week, Adventist St. Helena President & CEO Steve Herber, MD, hosted state Sen. Bill Dodd, PG&E CEO Patti Poppe, other PG&E executives, and a group of 60 PG&E stakeholders as part of a two-day event with a focus on undergrounding power lines for wildfire mitigation.    The group heard from PG&E executives in San Ramon and then headed to St. Helena, stopping at the hospital to hear from Poppe, Sen. Dodd, and Dr. Herber about the importance of the work PG&E is doing to reduce the risk of wildfires and keep our communities safe. In particular, Dr. Herber spoke about PG&E’s ongoing support since 2019 and the growth of the partnership through the leadership and advocacy efforts of Hospital Council. PG&E demonstrated and showed the undergrounding of utility lines in many of the wildfire threat areas, including those surrounding Adventist St. Helena.  
In addition, I was also interviewed recently by The Weather Channel, and had the chance to talk about the impact that California wildfires have and continue to have on hospitals. The interview was prompted by a Washington Post article that showed that over 50% of all inpatient hospital beds in California are located less than 1 mile from a high fire threat zone and a full 95% of California’s inpatient beds are within 3.7 miles of a high fire threat zone.   

Although much progress has been made to ensure the power needs of hospitals are safely met at all times in all conditions, the work is not done, as Hospital Council and PG&E continue to foster this vital partnership.