There is a growing debate that decisions to shut down electricity transmission lines on extereme or catastrophic fire days will have unintended consequences which are more damagaing than the decision to leave the power on. Questions must be asked – who is really benefitting from a decision to shiut down power, when research shows that 1-4 percent of all bushfires are caused by electricity lines?

Athol Yates, an engineer, has unearthed some interesting options in his paper which he is now distributing. (Contact Athol: [email protected])

Michael Eburn’s excellent blog “emergency law” reveals a new report from a trusted and well respected organisation, casts serious doubt on the decision to shut down power.

“Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia now paints a different picture.  In their article ‘The definite health risks from cutting power outweigh possible bushfire prevention benefits’ (197(8) Medical Journal of Australia440-441 (15 October 2012)) Richard Broome and Wayne Smith report on their study of the likely public health effects of cutting off the power.    They say:

The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission heard that about 1%–4% of all bushfires are caused by electrical faults and that this proportion rises on days when catastrophic fires have occurred.  Switching off the power supply will, therefore, prevent a small proportion of fires. On the other hand, a functioning power supply has many health and safety benefits that may be particularly important on days of high fire danger.

Cutting off the power can affect people’s ability to receive warnings as they can’t operate televisions and computers, can cause failure of traffic signals increasing the risk of accidents, may cause garage doors to fail leaving people trapped and may affect fire fighting efforts by restricting the supply of water.   Cutting off power may also increase the risk from other ignition sources such as cooking fires and home generators.”

This touches on the issue of evacuation and warnings. Michael points out:

“The findings of Broome and Smith may be true if people who live in fire prone areas fail to prepare and assume that the power will always be on and that they can stay in their home until evacuated by the fire service.”

Both articles are worth a read.