One of the advantages of living in the Greater Phoenix areas is that there are relatively few natural disasters here. Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, avalanches, and floods rarely make an appearance in Phoenix. The heat in the Sonoran desert is certainly a factor in the sense of extreme weather, as is our summer monsoon, when we experience thunderstorms, lightning, wind, and rain for about two months.
Are There Power Outages in Phoenix?
Even though we don't have the most extreme natural disasters here, we experience power outages from time to time. Utility equipment failure, or the occasional vehicle that wipes out a power pole, usually precipitates a very quick response from both major electricity providers here. The summer months bring the most power outages to Phoenix and are usually caused by wind and lightning. Microbursts can wreak havoc with above ground utilities, especially those wooden power poles. Even when we have severe weather in the Phoenix area, downtime for electricity is not usually very long — from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the severity of the storm, and how widespread the damage is. The more crews need to be called out to repair damaged equipment, the longer the power outage. There have been isolated cases of power outages that have lasted a day or more, but they are rare in Phoenix.
Before Your Power Goes Out
There are certain things you should have around the house, and everyone in your household should know where they are.
- Fresh batteries
- Cell phone
- Battery operated radio or television
- Nonperishable food
- Manual can opener
- Drinking water
- Coolers/ice chests
- Cash (ATMs might not be working)
- Wind up clock (in case you need to set an alarm to get up in the morning)
- Phone with a cord. (Cordless phones require electricity.)
- First aid kit
Aside from supplies that you should keep in the house, there are some things that you should know or consider long before you find yourself in an emergency situation. Don't forget to discuss these with everyone in your household, too.
- Know where to find each utility shut off — electricity, water, and gas. Know how to turn each off. Have the proper tools to do so, and know where they are located.
- Know how to manually open your garage door.
- Use surge protectors on computers and home entertainment systems.
- If you have pets, be prepared to care for them. Dogs and cats don't care much about electricity. Water, food and a place to keep relatively cool is what's important to them. If you have fish or other pets that depend on electricity, though, you should investigate an emergency plan just for them.
- Keep important phone numbers in writing somewhere besides on your computer.
- Consider purchasing a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for your computer
- Always try to have one car with at least half a tank of gas.
- Consider buying a battery operated fan since most of our power outages in Phoenix occur in the summer.
When Your Power Goes Out
- Check with your neighbors to see if they have power. The problem might be only with your home. Check to see if your main circuit breaker is off, or if your fuses have blown.
- Unplug computers, equipment, air conditioner or heat pump, and copy machines. Turn off lights and other electrical items so that the surge of power won't affect them when power is restored. Leave one light on so you know when the power comes back on. Wait a minute or two after power has been restored and gradually turn on all your equipment.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed.
- Wear loose, breathable clothing.
- Stay out of the sun to stay as cool as possible.
- Avoid opening and closing the doors to your house. This will keep the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
- If it seems that the power outage will be prolonged, use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator first. Frozen foods in a full, modern, insulated freezer will usually be safe to eat for at least three days.
Why We Don't Have More Power Outages
Barring unusual circumstances, power outages in Phoenix tend to be of shorter duration than in the past. Many of our power lines in newer areas are underground (make sure you call 8-1-1 before you dig). Above ground wood poles are gradually being replaced by steel poles, making them less susceptible to wind, and minimizing the domino effect when those storm winds do occur. Finally, technology improvements have allowed our utility providers to react more quickly to outages, and in many cases, redundant or overlapping systems are used to deliver power to affected areas. The Phoenix area does not experience rolling blackouts or brownouts. So far, during emergency situations, our utilities, working in cooperation with local residents and businesses, have been able to avoid those situations.
Myth or reality?
Does APS have more power outages than SRP because they operate the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station?
I was not able to find any evidence that this is true. SRP serves a larger percentage of homes and businesses in the Phoenix area, and APS serves a larger percentage of customers outside the Phoenix area, where cold weather and rain adds to power problems. Both utilities have significant stakes in Palo Verde, so any impact that the power plant would have on outages would affect both companies' service areas.
Emergency Alert System in Phoenix
In the event of a widespread power emergency, you'll be able to get information by watching your battery-operated TV or listening to your battery-operated radio (or car radio). Don't have one of those? If this is an electrical outage, your cell phone should not be affected.
Where Do I Report a Power Outage in Phoenix?
If you have a power outage, you might not be able to access the Internet to see this article! Take these phone numbers and write them down.
To report a power outage to Salt River Project (SRP), call 602-236-8888.
To report a power outage to Arizona Public Service (APS), call 602-371-7171.