Southern California Edison has revamped its program for communicating with customers and communities affected by unplanned blackouts. The effort is in response to severe criticism for shortcomings following a hurricane-force wind storm in 2011 that left 493,000 customers in the dark. \tEdison\u2019s new outage communications program could be put to the test this summer if the California Independent System Operator has to call for rotating outages in the face of the ongoing closure of the utility\u2019s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Edison has taken steps to avoid rotating blackouts, Charley Wilson, utility spokesperson, said May 21. According to Wilson, the utility\u2019s beefed up power supply contracts and accelerated substation upgrades aimed at maintaining voltage in Orange County near where the reactor is located. It\u2019s also got up to 1,800 MW of demand-response capacity at the ready. In addition, installation of voltage support devices at a power plant in Huntington Beach should help, along with planned advertising to appeal for conservation under the state\u2019s Flex Alert program. \tYet, fires or a prolonged hot spell could cause problems, Wilson admitted. \u201cThe biggest things we don\u2019t control.\u201d \tThere is a chance a prolonged hot spell coupled with monsoon flow could disrupt the grid, he explained. During such weather conditions it\u2019s humid and remains hot at night, prompting people to run air conditioning non-stop. This constant load stresses transformers, which can overheat and burn out when they remain hot for extended periods. \tTo prevent outages, Edison also is hurrying repairs and replacements of the oldest power poles, transformers, vaults, and cables in its system in a bid to prevent equipment failures that cause outages. Edison has spent the last year-and-a-half coordinating with police and fire officials and putting in place procedures to employ social media and the telecommunications system to provide municipal governments, the media, and its customers with quicker and more up-to-date information on unplanned outages and estimated power restoration times, company officials said. \tMost outages are local events, caused by a variety of unplanned mishaps from helium-filled metallic balloons hitting power lines\u2014which generally takes up to 12 hours to rectify\u2014to cars colliding with power poles, said Tomaso Giannelli, utility project manager. \tTo deal with those and larger outages, he explained, the company has set up an automated system that sends messages generally within 30 minutes to medical baseline customers and others who sign up to receive them via text, e-mail, or other means. The messages include the best estimate for restoring power. Updates are sent when estimates change. \tIn the case of massive outages, the utility plans to use the same system, according to Giannelli. \tDuring large outages, the utility also plans to activate a communications system for government agencies. First responders would be able to call a dedicated phone line staffed to provide outage information, according to Wilson. \tWilson explained that Edison and local officials would set up a unified incident command system for handling responses to large-scale events, such as earthquakes, fires, and wind storms. \tThe utility has been meeting with cities and counties to develop a unified incident command system since the windstorm in 2011, which caused widespread damage to the utility\u2019s distribution system centered in the San Gabriel Valley, east of downtown Los Angeles. \tFollowing the outage, local officials, business owners, and customers heavily criticized the utility for providing poor information, if any, about the extent of the problems and when power would be restored. \tThose complaints\u2014 voiced during emotional legislative and California Public Utilities Commission hearings\u2014prompted regulators to demand that the utility improve its ability to communicate and respond in emergency situations (Current, Feb. 3, 2012). \t \tThe company has in its distribution system 4,372 circuits, 116,676 circuit miles, 1.5 million poles, 718,682 transformers, and 813,754 street lights. Many of the devices in the enormous distribution system date back to just after World War II, noted Wilson, and are in need of replacement.