Segment #13 – Meter Related Fire Frequency (cont’d) – US Statistics

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.


Segment #13

In this segment, US statistics are used to reassure that smeters are safe. But there is no way to verify that the statistics are any more credible than the ones kept in BC, which I have proven are not credible at all.   Please note that there were 20,700 fires caused by electrical distribution equipment. Len Garis said that when this term is used, usually it will relate to the meter or meter base.

Sharon Noble

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US Statistics

In the United States they have a similar fire reporting system implemented on a national basis. The US has approximately 125 million residential electric meters12 as compared with the approximately 2 million meters in BC. The reporting system categories are slightly different than the BC system and are thus not directly comparable.

12  Electric Power Annual 2013, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Table 2.1

Comment: Please explain the term “slightly different” if you are using the statistics in these table. If they are “not directly comparable”, then how should the reader interpret them?

Table 1 shows the average number of fires reported on an annual basis in the US.

Table 1: US electrical fire statistics

US Annual Average Residential Fires 2007-2011 13
Electrical distribution or lighting equipment 20,700
Service supply wiring from utility 690
Fuse or circuit breaker panel 1,350
Meter or meter box 610
Wiring from meter box to circuit breaker 530

 In the US from 2007 through 2011, there were 610 fires per year where the ignition source was attributed to the electric meter or meter box. From 2007 to 2011 the number of smart meters installed in the US increased from approximately 2.5 million to 37 million.14   From 2002 through 2005, prior to the installation of a significant number of smart meters in the US, there were on average 940 home fires per year where the ignition source was attributed to the electric meter or meter box.15  This data shows that some electrical fires whose ignition source was attributed to the meter or meter box do occur regardless of the type of meter used.

If the US incident rate (610 fires at meter or meter box for 125 million meters) is applied to the number of meters in BC (2 million) the equivalent BC rate is 10 meter or meter box related fires per year.

  • Why should we consider this to be a relevant comparison?  Has it been confirmed that the US stats are credible and do not have many of the systemic problems that the BC Fire Commission reports have? 
  • Norman Lambe, an insurance inspector in the US, has complained that his reports are often incomplete because the utilities are removing the meters from the fire scenes before he can do his job. This fact alone means that these statistics are not credible, and that no one can say that smart meters are not causing fires.
  • I have asked several agencies for incidents where the analog meter has caused fires, and have never received a response. Because of the construction material of the meter, which is  glass and metal, it is highly unlikely that an analog would be as flammable or prone to fire as a smart meter.

Comment: Again, as commented previously, prior to using any statistics, the author must validate that the numbers are truly representative of the real facts and are complete and appropriate for the situation before basing any decisions on them.