California power shut-offs pose fire risk due to Smart Meters

In the report I released this summer on Smart Meter fire and electrical hazards, I explained the dangers which electrical surges pose to digital electronic meters.

This week PG&E will activate Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) in many California counties. California utilities SoCal Edison and SDGE may also activate PSPS. Afterwards, companies will re-energize those transmission lines, causing surges to flow down the lines. These surges will impact the Smart Meters installed on homes and buildings throughout communities, as well as those installed on utility poles for cellular equipment — small cell towers. These surges could cause Smart Meters to malfunction, leading to electrical damage or even fires.

California residents:

Please send my report and this alert to California officials and local and state emergency personnel. State emergency personnel must be apprised of this fire and public safety risk. Also, let your neighbors know.

If you have a Smart Meter or other digital meter, when the power shutoff occurs, it’s a good idea to turn off all your breakers and your main breaker, and check your meter after the power is restored before turning on your breakers. Be alert to any signs of damage, overheating, or fire at the meter or in your home or building, strange sounds, such as buzzing, or electrical problems such as flickering lights.  If you see or hear any signs of malfunction or fire, contact your fire department immediately first and take photographs of any visible damage.

Smart Meters do not have a direct connection to ground, a circuit breaker, or adequate surge protection. Instead, they contain a varistor which wears out over time from repeated surges. When it wears out or if a high voltage event happens, including a surge over its maximum, touching wires, or a lightning strike, it will explode, allowing the overvoltage to flow unabated into the building. This can result in arcing, burned wiring, destroyed appliances and electronics, and fires, and it happens in seconds. It makes a popping sound when it explodes.

It is critical that emergency personnel understand the risks to the buildings in each community from these PSPS events and why fires and electrical problems can result. PG&E and other utility companies routinely tamper with fire scenes by removing Smart Meters, in violation of state procedures. Fire personnel must stop utility companies from removing meters so that a thorough investigation can happen. Inadequate fire codes and lack of training for fire personnel on Smart Meter vulnerabilities presently hamper data collection and accountability. This must change.

PSPS are dangerous for other reasons including the short warning period, PSPS also impact wells and water access for humans, livestock, and for fighting fires, disconnect critical medical devices, shut down air conditioning and refrigerators – especially critical for the elderly, those who are ill or disabled, and families with babies and children, shut down electricity to hospitals and urgent care centers, and can impact transportation infrastructure. PSPS shuts down communication for those who have shifted from dependable copperline POTS corded phones, to wireless communication – VoiP or cell phones – or cordless phone equipment. This is unsafe.

The so-called “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” policy must be re-examined now.

PDF: Fire and electrical hazards report


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