The Eyes and Ears of Southern California Edison
At any given time of the year, day and night, a small and vigilant team keeps their eyes peeled — watching, monitoring and tracking Southern California Edison’s 50,000-square-mile service area.
“Being the eyes and ears of the company, it’s important to catch things early and to let leadership know as soon as possible so they can respond immediately,” said Didier Dorga, SCE Watch Office senior specialist.
Those eyes and ears belong to the people who form the Watch Office, the utility’s team dedicated to monitoring all company operations and external activities that may impact employees or service to customers. During their 12-hour shifts, team members gather real-time updates from an arsenal of resources, including phone calls with field technicians and external stakeholders, fire notifications, AlertWildfire cameras, Google and social media searches. The active monitoring enables the team to provide daily situational awareness reports to business units throughout the company.
“There is a lot of research involved,” said Guadalupe Rodriguez, SCE Watch Office senior specialist. “We may see something on Twitter about a vegetation fire that is being reported that triggers us to map the location and see if it’s near any transmission or distribution circuits, or if we have any ‘wire down’ or emergency calls in the Outage Management System. We are also able to provide SCE Fire Management with an approximate location, the name of the fire, acreage and what agencies are on scene.”
"We are also monitoring weather conditions, including dry or windy weather that could increase the threat of wildfires. We need to be ready to make notifications to the appropriate groups,” Rodriguez added.
At no other time is the Watch Office more critical than when emergencies unfold. While incidents may range from Public Safety Power Shutoffs and power outages to medical emergencies and environmental hazards, the Watch Office is uniquely tasked with being on the virtual front lines and initiating SCE’s immediate response.
“Safety is the primary value for the company,” said Dorga. “If management authorizes an activation, our involvement goes from the planning stage all the way to the activation stage. We’ll set up the phone calls and the conferences with the teams as they plan and prepare. Then we activate and we monitor the response.”
For the Watch Office, incident management doesn’t begin the moment of activation, but in the weeks and months before an event. One of the team’s key responsibilities is maintaining a continuous roster of roughly 1,000 employees who can staff incident management teams at a moment’s notice. By deploying the very first emergency notifications to employees and partnering agencies, the Watch Office enables SCE to mitigate emerging issues as quickly and safely as possible.
“Customers can rest assured that we’re continuously monitoring for incidents and passing along pertinent information to the correct groups, allowing them to plan their response,” said Rodriguez.
Created in 2014, the Watch Office was modeled after the intricate communication networks that are a staple of intelligence centers. Over its seven years in service, the Watch Office has tirelessly delivered on its goal to be an accurate source of information, supporting SCE’s work to provide safe and reliable service to 5 million customers.
“Through efforts to provide situational awareness and accurate, concise reporting of active incidents, SCE’s leadership team can assess and minimize the impacts of potential business disruptions and build a more resilient work environment,” said Pamela Pernin, Watch Office manager.