Bushfires: cutting power could kill

Bushfires: cutting power could kill

16 October 2012

published by www.theaustralian.com.au

Australia–  CUTTING electricity during bushfires could actually cause deaths, a new report says.

In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, NSW Ministry of Health medical adviser Dr Richard Broome and University of Newcastle Professor Dr Wayne Smith said cutting off power on high bushfire danger days could increase the risk to people’s lives.

“Deaths from heat outweigh direct deaths from catastrophic bushfires,” they said in the article.

“It is our view that power should never be deliberately cut off, except to an area that has already been evacuated.”

The authors said they disagreed with a recommendation made during the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission that cutting power could prevent a small number of fires starting through electrical faults.

On the contrary, they argue, the lack of power could endanger people’s lives through loss of communications, traffic signal failure and disrupted water distribution.

The authors added that electricity companies should not have sole authority to cut power, pointing to a situation in January where a South Australian electricity distributor shut off power to several thousand homes because of bushfire concerns.

“Systems should be in place for all relevant stakeholders, including health departments, to have input,” the authors said.

“These issues should be considered as part of the preparation phase of the emergency management cycle.”



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