City Acts to Eliminate Public Safety Threat
The destruction of a home by fire caused by the inaction of DTE Energy resulted in a resolution by the Royal Oak City Commission Monday.
On August 28, 2011, a home on Woodslee Drive in Royal Oak was completely lost due to fire from downed electrical wires. The loss of the home followed a two-hour wait for DTE to respond to a call issued by the Royal Oak Fire Department. The fire occurred on a clear day with no weather emergencies, and the cause of the downed wires was never determined.
The owners, neighbors, and firefighters watched on helplessly as they waited for DTE. Firefighters risked electrocution if they intervened.
Monday, the City Commission urged state regulators, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), to review safety rules for acceptable response times for downed electrical wires in instances where life and property are threatened.
DTE argued that the two-hour response time was within the MPSC’s blanket requirement that energy companies respond within four hours 90% of the time, under all circumstances. However, the City found a two-hour wait to be unacceptable when the life and property of Royal Oak residents are threatened.
Commissioner Jim Rasor was “appalled by DTE’s response that somehow it took two hours to get somebody over here from Redford to do this.”
In retort to DTE’s response, Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello quipped “So the operation was successful, but the patient died.” She indicated that it was important to “find some resolutions for what is an unsafe situation that exists in our community.”
City Manager Donald Johnson notes that “What we’re asking for isn’t unreasonable. We want one response time for normal power failure and another one for situations that threaten life and property. It’s one thing if my freezer isn’t running and I can keep the door closed, but it’s not acceptable if my house is burning and the fire department can’t do anything because DTE has four hours to respond.”
The resolution passed Monday recommends the MPSC adopt new standards that reduce response times to 20 minutes in urban areas such as Royal Oak when life and property are threatened. It also suggests energy companies like DTE be required to work with local fire departments to develop a plan to ensure fire department requests are given first priority.
Royal Oak urges all Michigan communities to pass similar resolutions to ensure this public safety threat is eliminated, and homes are not needlessly lost in any community.