Disasters related to last year’s BC climate crisis such as deadly heat domes, wildfires, floods and landslides highlighted the need for new safety measures, according to a new report by the BC safety authority this week.
Other key concerns outlined in the 2021 BC Technical Safety report include: lack of awareness about carbon monoxide safety, and work done by unlicensed individuals.
This year’s report found that some of the most significant risks to the safety of British Columbians are risks arising from the continuing impacts of climate change on communities across the province.
For example, during November’s atmospheric river—which caused catastrophic flooding in the Fraser Valley, a landslide that killed four people, and damaged multiple highways, including Coquihalla—the agency dispatched safety officers to assess damage to several of their licensed businesses. affected.
What they found was that two passenger cable cars at several unnamed local ski resorts were facing erosion in the towers from the water flowing down the mountain.
BC Technical Safety President Phil Gothe said there was no tower movement, and everything was considered safe, but it was a good learning lesson that this is the kind of hazard to expect with more and more intense flooding.
“So with more extreme weather, as we know, floods, wind, fires, heat, what we need to think about is how will our current equipment infrastructure hold up? So there is analytical and evaluation work going on,” Gothe said.
And, during the June hot dome, BC Technical Safety staff, found a pressurized bank of abandoned compressed natural gas cylinders in a high-density urban area.
As temperatures rise, the cylinders release natural gas into the atmosphere and the heating and cooling systems of adjacent buildings, putting nearby communities at risk, the report said.
“Although this incident was resolved without complications, it does highlight some of the potential risks that would arise from climate change,” the report said.
As new low-carbon technologies enter the market, the report says there needs to be regulations to ensure BC residents can access heat pumps, electric vehicle energy management systems, hydrogen, and new types of refrigerants.
For example, Gothe said there are safety concerns about whether buildings offering electric vehicle charging stations are equipped to handle all charging stations in use at the same time.
To address this, safety authorities said they were reviewing installation permits related to the Electric Vehicle Energy Management System and tracking non-compliance issues to help prevent risks to people or property caused by overloaded charging stations.
Gothe says in the future homes may have large batteries installed or solar panels that contribute energy back to the grid, which could raise safety concerns, such as regulating the flow of energy in both directions. In addition, he said the battery could pose a fire hazard if it failed.
“There is a lot of work being done to certify these batteries. Currently, there is some discussion at the code level nationally about where they can be found, so not in the home directly but in an attached building or in a garage because when they catch fire, they are very difficult to extinguish. So there are those natural hazards that are being considered and taken into account,” Gothe said.
In addition, if an electric vehicle charging station is being installed in a strata building or apartment, the work must be completed by a licensed contractor and the contractor must apply for an electrical installation permit before work begins, he added.
Safety authorities have also formed teams to assess the safety risks of low-carbon technologies, such as those used in building electrification, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, hydrogen and refrigeration.
“The past year brought unprecedented challenges to communities across the province, and BC Technical Safety is focused on adapting to the impacts of extreme weather, emerging technologies and new safety risks,” said Gothe.
In 2020, Technical Safety BC set up a climate action team to manage risks, and support the province’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by implementing low-carbon technologies.
Also included in the report, is a 2021 survey that found that nearly half —49 percent — of households in SM still don’t have a carbon monoxide detector.
Last year, safety authorities released an investigation into gas-burning furnaces manufactured between 1989-2011 by the Carrier Corporation.
The investigation was prompted by the hospitalization of eight people across the province for exposure to carbon monoxide involving a common brand of residential stove.
The report finds more public awareness campaigns about the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure are needed.