On Tuesday the Environmental Science and Technology Journal published a study warning that if a multiday blackout occurred in Phoenix during a heat wave, almost half of the population would require emergency care for heat-related illnesses. This risk extends beyond Phoenix, as major blackouts have more than doubled nationwide since 2015, while climate change exacerbates heat waves and extreme weather globally.

With the potential for hurricanes, cyberattacks, or windstorms to compound the situation by knocking out power during a heat wave, cities are at increased risk. This summer, two-thirds of North America, including the Southwest, may face electrical grid shortfalls during extreme heat, straining resources and leaving many without air conditioning.

The study emphasizes the urgent need to address this issue and protect vulnerable communities. Phoenix, heavily reliant on air conditioning to combat desert heat, would experience catastrophic loss if a citywide blackout during a heat wave lasted two days. The study estimates that over 789,000 people would require emergency care, overwhelming the city’s hospital system, with an estimated 12,800 fatalities.

The study lists heat waves as the most significant climate-related hazard. To anticipate the effects, researchers modeled temperatures in Atlanta, Detroit, and Phoenix during extreme heat with and without power. They factored in various variables such as indoor temperatures and residents’ time spent indoors/outdoors.

Atlanta and Detroit would also face dire consequences, with thousands of people requiring emergency care and fatalities occurring during dual crises. The study urges cities to take proactive measures to protect vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, outdoor workers, and the elderly to name a few. Phoenix’s mayor, Kate Gallego has even gone as far as requesting the federal government add extreme heat as a disaster that would elicit a federal disaster declaration.
Exergy can help you prioritize your safety and develop comprehensive strategies to mitigate the risks of heat waves and blackouts. Together, we can help you build resilient communities that are prepared for the challenges of climate change.