Letters – July 12, 2019

More on Emergency Management

Additional inquiry by Jane Terjung has contributed some clarification to the Messenger Mountain News report (“Saving Ourselves is Complicated,” by Flavia Potenza, June 28, 2019) about the Topanga Emergency Management Task Force (TEMTF) meeting of June 19, that addressed, among other things, Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) 


Dear Messenger,

Thanks for the detailed and timely article on the TEMTF meeting on July 19. You covered a lot, but I heard a few more things.  

First, Verizon said they viewed Macro Cell Towers as the ultimate solution for Topanga and that these towers would take two to three years to become a reality, if the community approves them. Right now, all they will do is bring in backup generators for the five cell signal repeaters (micro cells) that they have on poles along Topanga Canyon Boulevard (TCB/State Highway 27). 

My Personal Opinion? Community approval is a long shot and I do not intend to fight a “religious” battle that pits neighbor against neighbor.

After the meeting, I spoke with Mike Elliott, Verizon Director of Network Assurance, and asked if we could have emergency Cells on Wheels (COWs) in the town center or other community centers. Specifically, how many COWs could we get and how did we ask for them. He made it 100 percent clear that we would get zero. He explained their emergency model was only to replace existing functionality, so since Topanga has zero cell towers, that is how many COWs we qualify for. I asked him if there was any way to change that model and he said, “No.”

I am optimistically hoping that money might change that “existing functionality” model and plan to suggest that SCE contract with Verizon as part of their “Wildfire Mitigation Plan” that the CPUC has required [for] all independently owned utilities to file. I also hope that Frontier or Verizon (and the other wired and wireless Telecoms) will be required by new CPUC Regulations to offer a home battery backup package for 9-1-1 access communication support that lasts three days.

To help folks understand where these SCE Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) blackout areas will be, there are four huge “circuits” that SCE has defined for Topanga, encompassing all neighborhoods. When a planned PSPS happens during hot and windy weather, one or more of these circuits will lose power.

The circuits cover: along Old Topanga Canyon Road from the town center into Calabasas;  Fernwood area; TCB [State Highway 27] from PCH to Mulholland; and a hard-to-describe blob that includes Topanga Elementary school, Greenleaf, some of Henry Ridge, Will Geer Road, and part of Highway 27, extending over to Hillside.

NOTE: All four of them overlap on Topanga’s town center, which means that if any one is shut down for a PSPS the town center goes dark.

At the meeting, we also learned that SCE is defining more PSPS circuits in an attempt to make them smaller and more refined in impact, and will share that information with us soon.

Lastly, even though the Water District representative said that without generator backup, Topanga could last two to three days if all we did was use water for drinking, what I found more compelling was his “one to two days” quote for “normal usage,” since folks will be folks; plus I learned recently that one of the Fire Safe Council suggestions for home-hardening defense is to pre-soak your yard via sprinklers several days in advance of hot and windy weather. Something I know I’ma be doin’.


—Jane Terjung



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