Segment #7 – Meter Safety Jurisdiction (cont’d) – BC Safety Authority (cont’d) – Utilities

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.

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Segment #7

BC Safety Authority has the authority to investigate electrical fires, except those associated with smart meters. The local fire departments are supposed to call the BCSA to a fire when it is suspected to have been caused by some electrical problem. But this is not happening consistently. I have found many instances where the fire report clearly indicates an electrical malfunction, perhaps of a nature that implies meter involvement or fires at the electrical panels, and the BCSA has not been called in. In cases where the BCSA has been notified, the meter has been removed by BC Hydro before the inspection. I recently learned that the largest communities (Burnaby, Maple Ridge, North Vancouver (city and district), Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and West Vancouver) do their own inspections of electrical fires but they do not share their findings with the BCSA or with any other authority of which I am aware. I have requested electrical inspection reports from Surrey, for example, and the cost for a report exceeds $100, which is a deterrent to anyone wanting this information.

Also included is the first portion on the utilities. Note that BC Hydro is not allowed to remove meters from the scene of a fire, yet they do. I’ve attached one sample report – one of many.

I hope you will share this information widely. People need to know that fires are happening and all those responsible for our safety are doing nothing. It is an outrage, and it’s time for us to get angry. There is much more evidence to come in future segments – the system is entirely broken….

Sharon Noble

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BC Safety Authority (continued)

The BC Safety Authority is also mandated to investigate safety-related incidents7 involving installation and operation of regulated electrical equipment including residential wiring and meter sockets. The BC Safety Authority is not mandated to investigate utility owned meter incidents, though as a practical matter their mandate to investigate meter socket incidents encompasses the meter as the two components are physically attached to each other and an incident damaging one will in all likelihood damage to the other.

COMMENTS on the BCSA Electrical Safety Reports 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 PUBLISHED ON THEIR WEB SITE:

The incidents are not identified by ID number, making it difficult to consistently identify and to track each incident. In 2013 report, the BCSA started using dates for each incident.

In 2010 and 2011, the BCSA does not appear to have published any detailed reporting on electrical incidents.

Since there are no incidents listed for those identified Municipalities listed below, we assume that they are not included.

Most incidents extracted here start with the words: “A fire occurred…” We assume that the Fire Fighters reported the incidents to BCSA. There is no documentation identifying the source of the incident report, e.g. Hydro, Fortis, Electrician, Fire Hall etc.

There is no data describing how, and if these incidents were investigated, by whom and how much time had elapsed after the fire before the BCSA arrived.

There is no explanation on whether BCSA intends to improve its methods of investigation, or to obtain expert resources in order to carry out detailed investigations of the backlog and new cases.

There is no reference to cooperation or coordination with Electrical Utilities such as Hydro and Fortis.

There is no explanation whether BCSA is aware of the incomplete reporting system that results in only BCSA incident data being listed in what might be assumed to be Province-Wide oversight. BCSA needs to state that other data sources (e.g. Municipalities, Hydro, Fortis etc.) are not included and should comment on what is the scale and seriousness of other non-listed incidents.

In 2012 there were 35 incidents listed as “Investigators were unable to determine the causes in these incidents.” Note that electrical incidents being investigated are not listed.

In 2013 there were 24 incidents listed in the BCSA Report as “Investigators were unable to determine the causes in these incidents.” Note that 52 electrical incidents that are still being investigated are not listed.

The BCSA data in these annual reports must be reviewed with extreme caution, since it is a part of a much larger picture in which the reader is not aware of the scale or severity of incidents not reported or held within Municipalities’ files.

The quantity of unresolved incidents is high and needs to be addressed immediately and the users, including the Public, need to be advised.

Utilities

The utilities install and own the meters which are inserted into the meter socket of residential properties. Utilities and their distribution equipment including meters are exempt from the Electrical Safety Regulation. However, utilities are not exempt from the Safety Standards Act and thus “must not remove, disturb or interfere with anything in, on or about the place” were an incident resulting in damage to property has occurred as a result of a meter socket (or other regulated equipment) until the BC Safety Authority has completed its investigation. (emphasis was added)

BC Hydro is exempt from most provisions of the Electrical Standards Act and the Electrical Safety Standards, but it is ignoring the provisions in the Electrical Safety Regulations that do apply to it – with impunity. Further, those who are to enforce the Act are condoning Hydro’s disregard.

* BC Hydro is removing meters from the fire scene. A fire inspector and a fire chief told me (in confidence) that this is a regular occurrence. Both the Fire Commissioner and BCSA have said this removal prior to inspection is allowed because it is Hydro’s equipment. How is this different from an arsonist being allowed to remove a gas can from the scene of the fire because it belongs to him? An example is a fire in Coquitlam, Aug, 5, 2012. The BCSA report states that cause of fire could not be determined because the meter had been removed before it could be examined.

CoquitlamFireReport-Segment7