RESPONSE TO “BCUC’s Staff Report on Smart Meter Fire Safety Concerns”
KEY: Highlighted text is from Sharon Noble Non-highlighted text is the draft report as written by BCUC staff.
Below is one of the most important arguments that BC Hydro and BCUC present to support their claim that $$meters are safe: The report that BC Hydro commissioned and paid Len Garis to write. Please read and share – this demonstrates that the entire effort to ensure the meters are safe is a farce. Remember the non-highlighted portions are the BCUC statements.
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Meter Related Fire Frequency
BC Hydro commissioned and edited a report in 2013 to look at the residential structure fire frequency before and after the start of their smart meter program. The report was updated in August of 2015 and released as “Fire Report – Assessing the Safety of Smart Meter Installations in British Columbia: Analysis of Residential Structure Fires in BC Between July 2010 and June 2015” authored by Len Garis et al (the Garis Report).
The Garis Report relies on the database of fire incidents maintained by the provincial Office of the Fire Commissioner which all local fire departments are required to report into following a standardized reporting and coding system.
The fact that Mr. Garis depends solely on the database of the fire incidents maintained by the provincial Fire Commissioner’s Office for his “research” is the basic problem with the report. As I will demonstrate, the database is incomplete. It is obvious that Mr. Garis should have investigated the validity of the data before using it in several reports to substantiate the safety of smart meters.
- Despite the requirement that local fire officials complete and file reports with the Fire Commission immediately after a fire, this is a demand that is largely ignored. Of the numerous fire reports I’ve requested, nearly 50% were completed from 2-3 months up to 2-3 years after the fire occurred. A couple of examples:
Langley fire on July 10, 2013. Dept. completed report July 11, 2014.
Cumberland fire on Aug. 8, 2013. Dept. completed report June 20, 2014.
- Because these reports and others were completed so long after the incident, some only after I requested them, it is inevitable that time and expediency will have had an influence on the interpretation of those results. Their accuracy, thus, is put into question.
- Garis depends upon the Fire Commission’s statistics alone and has done no other research but, like the reports indicated above and for the same reason, they cannot be trusted. Data input to the system in too many instances occurs one year or longer after the event, often many months after the fire report was submitted by the local fire authorities. Of the reports I’ve gathered, approximately 70% have not been put on the system within 1-2 months of the report having been submitted. And many of those have not even been put on the system in time to be included in that year’s annual report…which means that they don’t get reported at all. Coupling this discrepancy with the legerdemain required when the Garis Report derives calendar year conclusions from July to July data shows not only that the Garis Report is of no value but it is actually a stumbling block for anyone seeking to gain an understanding of the true nature of fire incidents.
- Following the path of the two examples above, the examples below would not have been included in the annual report for the year in which the fire occurred.
Langley fire on July 10, 2013, dept. report completed July 11, 2014. Put on FC system Dec. 15, 2014.
Cumberland fire on Aug. 8, 2013, dept. report completed on June 20, 2014. Put on FC system Oct. 3, 2014
- Some fire reports are never filed by the local fire authority. even after the Fire Commissioner’s office requested the report because I had filed an FOI. 2 examples are:
Vancouver fire on April 24, 2014.
Enderby fire on Feb. 6, 2013
The Garis Report concludes that the available data does not indicate that there has been an increase in frequency of residential structure fires associated with electricity after 2010 when BC Hydro started installing smart meters.
Even a cursory reading of the Garis Report should give rise to the question: Why is this report given such credibility that it is often quoted as the proof that smart meters have not caused fires when there is little or no available data from which to draw conclusions and, therefore, that the conclusions drawn must be highly suspect?
Comment: See the notes added above in the section: BC Safety Authority referring to the sparse reports and unresolved incident descriptions from the BCSA that place Mr. Garis’ assertions into context.
More specifically the Garis Report provides statistics in tables that show that roughly 30% of the number of fires reported in BC are residential fires and that the overall percentage of residential fires where the electrical igniting object was found to be “electrical distribution equipment – panel board, switchboard (includes fuse, circuit breakers)” ranged from 0.4% in 2011 to 0.3% in 2014 and 2015 based on the number of residential fires of 7 in 2011, 2 in 2012, 8 in 2013, 6 in 2014 and 5 in 2015.
- As stated above, the Fire Commission’s reporting methodology results in misleading statistics. Further, many fires are omitted from the report entirely by design. For example, there are no statistics for the number of fires for which igniting objects were “Undetermined.” Of the reports that I received approximately 40% documented the “igniting object” as being “undetermined.
- In instances where the smart meter melted and was so badly damaged that no inspection could occur, the igniting object would be reported as “undetermined.”
- In instances where the firemen may have believed the smart meter to be involved, but where the meter was removed before the inspection could occur, the igniting object would be reported as “undetermined.”
The zero entries in the bottom line of Table 2 in the Garis Report, “Fires where Fire Origin Area was an exterior wall and the igniting object was an electrical panel board, switch board”, should not be interpreted to indicate that there has been no meter related fires as there are multiple ignition source codes that such fires can be classified and evidence has been reviewed of 14 fires originating in the vicinity of meters, the majority of which were provided by BC Hydro.
- In the Garis Report, Table 2 states that since the smart meter program began (2011) there have been no fires on an exterior wall where the igniting object was the electrical panel board or switchboard. This does not concur with the information that I’ve received. Neither does this statement include fires that have occurred in electrical rooms or on electrical panels. Among the reports I’ve received, there were 8 where the igniting objects were panels, electrical panels in electrical rooms. 2 examples:
Victoria (Saanich) fire, Dec. 30, 2014 coded 5900, Failed Electrical Distribution Equipment, fire at electrical panel of home.
New Westminster fire, Dec. 2, 2014 coded 5900, Failed Electrical Distribution Equipment, fire at electrical panel of a large condo building.
- Based on the fires I’ve investigated, approximately 8% of the fires that occurred since the smart meter program began involved a panel or electrical panels in an electrical room. Mr. Garis did not do sufficient investigation to justify any of his conclusions.
- In various Garis Reports, it is stated that fires caused by or attributed to Failed Electrical Distribution Equipment (EDE) would be “most closely related to the meter base, which is directly relevant to the smart meters”.. Of the approximately 100 Fire Reports I’ve received, 15 gave Failed Electrical Distribution Equipment at the ignition source. This is 15% of the random reports I requested, a not insignificant number. The author gives the clear implication that because the number of EDE fires had reduced in frequency, the smart meters had not caused any fires
- But not only is this deduction illogical, but because of the many fires that were not on the Fire Commission system the conclusion that there have been fewer EDE fires is not credible. Whether due to the many “undetermined” fires, or the many fires not on the Fire Commission system, the database upon which the Garis Report was predicated is not accurate or credible.
Comment: As is demonstrated above, the reporting of incidents involving electrical service points are imprecise and often unresolved (See the comments in the section: BC Safety Authority,) due to several issues: inadequate coding of the incidents, limited resources to investigate after an incident, involvement of many different entities, and removal of evidence. It is strongly suggested that the Garis Report NOT be relied upon to support arguments, and perhaps should be deleted from the BCUC Report.
Note also that Mr. Garis made a number of written comments which are not supported by technical expertise, for example: Quote “Smart meters can protect up to 575 volts providing further protection for the customer. In rare situations of a high power surge, the meter will stop the surge from travelling into a building.” Unquote. The Summerland incident shows how inaccurate and dangerous that assurance is.
And Quote “BC Hydro can remotely de-energize at the meter, allowing for interim access inside the premises.” Unquote. This pre-supposes that the meter is not involved in an incident, and shows that BC Hydro is using the built-in disconnect as a Service Disconnect Switch, contrary to its design capabilities. This assurance can cause undue reliance by firefighters on an unproven non-certified disconnecting device.
Mr. Garis was advised by Registered Letter about his comments that were deemed to be outside of his area of expertise. Mr. Garis’s comments need to be removed and clarifying explanations provided to B.C. firefighters.