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Prepare

Office of Emergency Management

King County Office of Emergency Management
3511 NE 2nd Street
Renton, WA 98056
Main Phone: 206-296-3830
Toll Free: 800-523-5044
Fax: 206-205-4056
ecc.kc@kingcounty.gov

Enhanced 911 Program
Seattle, WA
206-296-3910
E-911 program office

Power and utility outages and energy shortages

Image: Power linesTo report a power outage:
  • For residents of the Seattle area, call Seattle City Light Power Outage Hotline at 206-684-7400.
  • For other King County residents, call Puget Sound Energy Repairs and Power Outage at 1-800-321-4123.

Call only once to keep the line open for other customers.

Overview

King County's electricity infrastructure includes six hydroelectric plants, four coal-fired plants and six oil and natural gas-fire plants. Most of the natural gas infrastructure is located underground while most of the power lines are above ground. While there are some power lines that are located underground, it's the above ground lines that are more susceptible to severe weather conditions and interference from trees and other vegetation.

Power outages in our region are typically related to major earthquakes and severe weather such as snow, high winds and flooding. In addition to weather-related causes, outages can also be a result of equipment failure, damage to buried cables, or line loading. However, since Washington State is connected to a regional electrical transmission grid (electricity can be purchased from other areas), in the event of a line loading problem. So rather than having an inadequate supply of electricity, the result is higher cost of service. While we've never experienced planned power outages in Washington State, there is the potential for it to happen in the future. During the California 2000-2001 energy crisis, rolling blackouts were common and created a number of related problems typically associated with the loss of power, including major traffic challenges.

To try and guard against potential outages, utility companies construct their service where if one of each type of line goes down, there will be no disruption in service. However, if two of the same types of lines fail, some areas may lose power.

The natural gas system presents different concerns than that of electrical service, since natural gas infrastructure is located underground. This underground orientation makes the system more vulnerable to earthquake, landslide, and/or third party damage, as opposed to major outages like those associated with the electrical system.

Power and utility outages can be frequent occurrences in King County, and are not generally a cause for emergency unless resulting from severe weather, natural or man-made disaster. However, power and utility outages should be prepared for like any other potential emergency by creating a plan and building an emergency supply kit, as you may not know the extent or severity of the outage.

Hazard-specific preparedness steps

  1. Install surge protectors and/or battery back-up systems for computers.

  2. If you have an electric garage door opener, find out where the manual release lever is located and learn how to operate it.

  3. If you have a telephone system that relies on electricity to work, plan for alternate communication (i.e. standard telephone handset or cell phone).

  4. Make sure you have plenty of flashlights and extra batteries available.

  5. Consider purchasing a generator. If you have a generator be sure to strictly adhere to safety requirements.

  6. Register life-sustaining and medical equipment with your utility company.

Response steps

  1. Use battery-operated light source, such as a  flashlights or light sticks during a power outage. Due to the extreme risk of fire, DO NOT use candles during a power outage.

  2. Never use gas ovens, gas ranges, barbecues or propane heaters for indoor heating. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. These can also increase the risk of fire.

  3. Limit the number of times you open the refrigerator and freezer to help keep foods cold for longer.

  4. Turn off as many lights and other electrical items as possible (except for the refrigerator and freezer); this will help to eliminate potential fire hazards and lessen the power draw when service is restored.

  5. Unplug computers and other sensitive equipment to protect them from power surges when service is restored.

  6. Listen to your portable weather radio, radio, or television for current information. 

  7. If driving, proceed with caution and be alert to traffic lights that are not working. If a traffic light is out, remember to treat it as an all-way stop.

  8. Stay away from downed power lines and sagging trees with broken limbs.