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Power failure jumpstarts city's emergency center Allison K. Sampite | Fri, Sep 09 2011 05:00 PM

A major power outage at about 3:45  p.m. left some 1.4 million SDG&E customers in and around San Diego County in the dark Thursday night.

Locally, employees stood outside their businesses on Third Avenue in Chula Vista talking to passersby and wondering how long it’d take for the power to come back on.

Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities and Chula Vista city officials were mannning the city’s Emergency Operations Center basement talking strategy.

Emergency Operations Director Justin Gibson said the last two times the Center was used was for the 2003 and 2007 wildfires.

Gibson said this situation was unique in that the city hasn’t seen a power outage of this magnitude in the 12 years he been with the Chula Vista Fired Department.

The Center, which was set up within 30 minutes, was staffed and monitored by some of the city's department heads, who set the objectives for the situation at hand.

City Manager Jim Sandoval, Police Chief David Bejarano, Fire Chief Dave Hanneman and Assistant City Manager Scott Tulloch help set objectives for the operations division, while Sandoval worked with the elected officials.

Tulloch said the public works department’s main objective was to determine the impact of the power outage on all utilities, as well as the sewer systems to see of any infrastructure was impacted by the outage.

Hanneman praised the the system that allows Chula Vista and other emergency operation centers countywide to share informattion as it becomes available.

“The nice thing about this is through the system we can talk to each other to coordinate anything,” Hanneman said.

Another system called the WebEOC, ties all the centers together through a real-time network, sharing information in real time.

Bejarano said during the outage, police officers saw traffic congestion but few accidents with little petty crime and vandalism.

The police chief said the department paired up some 60 officers to better respond to priority one calls, covering more ground geographically and also save on gas.

Hanneman said the biggest concern for the center, aside from having back up generators and fuel, was to have a contingency plan and to be prepared for 24 to 36 hours of a power shortage.

At around 9:30 pm residents in Bonita and parts of Chula Vista were reporting that power had been restored. The contingency plan, for the moment, wouldn't be needed.

This story was updated at 5 p.m. on Sept. 9, 2011.

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