Welcome back! Last week, all of us working at Berkeley Lab endured an extremely difficult disruption when PG&E executed a public safety power shutoff (PSPS), the first widespread power shutoff for the Bay Area. This outage caused a major emergency for us and the entire region. It presented us with an unscheduled stress test of our emergency response capabilities and our operations in every part of the Lab.
This is a large and complex research organization. Being able to power down all of the Lab’s facilities and equipment in a systematic way, and then bring it back up to full operation without injury or incident is a tremendous accomplishment. I would like to congratulate and thank the core team of people who were working throughout the shutoff period to execute the power down and recovery. Because of your dedication, judgment, and creativity, all of us are able to return to a safe and well-functioning Laboratory today. Please enjoy this short video prepared by Strategic Communications that tells the story of the power down and restart.
I also appreciate that many of you figured out a way to keep doing your work from home during the days you couldn’t come to the Lab. Finally, I want to thank to everyone who works at the Lab for your patience as we managed this challenge.
I also would like to acknowledge the large number of people who were involved in planning ahead for this event. Some months ago, PG&E gave notice to everyone in their service area that they were likely to trigger a PSPS some time this year. Deputy Lab Director for Operations Michael Brandt instructed all of his operations leaders to prepare plans for how we would manage such an event, and the team sought input from the research areas on the best ways to minimize the disruptions to our research mission of a full Lab shutdown. The excellent performance over the last six days would not have been possible without that advance planning.
Although the response of all these people was heroic, we realize what a loss it has been to shut down research across the Laboratory. The nation invests a great deal into our research projects and programs, and we do everything we can to make sure we deliver a full return on that investment. Researchers at institutions all over the country lost access to our user facilities, essential to their work. Moreover, the process of shutting off power and restarting it presents unnecessary hazards to our people and to our equipment. We will make sure to communicate these losses and the increased risks both to PG&E and to the organizations responsible for protecting public safety. We should not be required to make this a routine event.
For the many employees and neighbors who experienced a power outage at home, this past week was even more stressful. The last week has served as a reminder of the need to plan ahead for the safety of ourselves and of our community. We should also remember to check in on those most at risk when such an emergency occurs.
Stewardship of the Laboratory requires all of us to take responsibility for the Lab’s people, research, and resources. This includes being ready to respond extremely well when we are confronted with emergencies like this power shutoff. I am very proud of the way all of you handled this challenge. Now we can return to our important work.