Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

New system to keep traffic signals on during public safety power safety shutoffs

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond was at Rancho Santa Fe on September 24th to try out a new security feature that can be used with public safety power cuts. The new technology was installed at one of the community’s few traffic lights on San Dieguito Road and Via Dos Valles at the Fairbanks Ranch.

SD County Supervisor Jim Desmond, second from right, examines the new technology at the intersection of San Dieguito Road.

(Miles of heaven)

Since 2013, SDG & E has been using power cuts as a preventive measure to protect against forest fires in extreme weather conditions such as strong winds – the community of Rancho Santa Fe has been affected by the shutdowns for the past two years. As shutdowns become more common, Desmond has stated that it is critical for the county to work with SDG&E and all relevant stakeholders to develop protocols and identify resources to minimize the impact of the shutdowns.

In March, Desmond and Supervisor Joel Anderson co-authored the Public Safety Power Shutoff Board’s letter instructing San Diego County staff to close service gaps if the power goes out during red flag winds. One of the regulator’s primary concerns was the impact power cuts can have on hinterland evacuation routes.

That month, the overseers approved government funding to provide emergency power to three fire stations and 54 traffic lights at key intersections in the unincorporated areas. The technology at the San Dieguito Road intersection was the first to be tested.

When the power fails, the batteries at traffic lights usually work for 6-8 hours. The newly installed technology will keep the lights on for over 24 hours to help with emergency evacuations.

Reducing the disruption caused by public safety power cuts was also a priority for the Rancho Santa Fe Association. The association’s staff have worked with the county to put on the priority list for funding the installation of power lines in the community that they believe is the best way to mitigate the risk of forest fire.

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