Emergency Preparedness Planning: Clearing the Way
This is the fourth article from the Emergency Preparedness Planning Committee (EPPiC) of the Big Park Council. It features Arizona Public Service (APS). Prior articles featured the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (safety and evacuation) as well as the Sedona Fire District and the US Forest Service (fire suppression). Another EPPiC article in this month’s Villager features the Yavapai County Office of Emergency Management (emergency logistics).
Mackenzie Rodgers, Northern Arizona Division Director and Wade Ward, Fire Mitigation Specialist, APS, joined the June EPPiC meeting. APS is the largest power company in Arizona and has been serving the state for 135 years. “Most important to the company and the company’s employees is the APS Promise to do what is right for the customers, community and each other.”
Wade previously served as a fireman and hotshot in the Prescott area for 20 years. His experience and existing relationships with other frontline agency personnel simplifies cooperation and collaboration during an emergency and year-round. APS is immediately connected to other frontline responders via the same radio equipment in their vehicles, set to the same communication frequencies. Wade confirmed information received by EPPiC from Brian Steinhart, Fire Management Officer of the Forest Service, that the firefighters use the APS right of way as a fire break, to access remote areas and to move equipment to fight the fire.
APS will cut power to make an area safe for first responders and residents. The Fire Incident Commander will request that APS cut power if the situation requires it. Before cutting power, APS follows-up to assure that essential needs, such as pumping stations and communication equipment are not disrupted, if at all possible. Cell phone providers as well as medical facilities are contacted directly and alerted to engage back-up plans before power is cut. APS can sectionalize a specific area in which to cut power in order to keep as many customers in service as possible.
Lightning strikes are a serious concern in our area. Lightning arrestors installed on APS power poles, attract the strike and capture the power to neutralize the effect and protect their system, much like a fuse in your home. With over 402,000 lightning strikes in 2021, not all strikes are captured, and damage/fires can occur. APS recommends residents install a full home surge protection device and to sign up for APS text and email alerts at APS.com. A text alert will be sent out to notify customers if power is intentionally cut due to an emergency. The outage map on APS.com reports public safety power cuts as well as outages due to other causes. The map also shows where the Red Cross emergency shelters are located, in the event of a required evacuation. If ice needs to be purchased to preserve food during an outage, keep the receipts for reimbursement by APS.
APS recommends that residents abide by the READY-SET-GO program and to consider the reality of the environment we choose to live in. Always be READY and have your home ready. Wade noted that fuel mitigation is important for homeowners as well as for APS. “We are in a fire dependent ecosystem, not normal, as fire suppression activities have resulted in increased density and continuity of fuel. Homeowners should mitigate fire risk by removing contiguous and ladder fuels on their property.”
APS works year-round to maintain the vegetation near powerlines and create defensible space around the powerlines. Routine powerline maintenance is enhanced by preventive activities. All 3,700 miles of overhead power lines and poles are checked annually in Northern Arizona for damage or weaknesses that need repair. Lines are inspected by drone, on foot, and by vehicle. If you notice or suspect a problem with an overhead wire, call the APS public safety hotline at 602-371-7171 or email publicsafety@APS.com.