The Shocking Truth about Australian phones ?

In this column Unca Cec makes the claim that “in the early 1980s, 60 to 80 Australians were injured by lightning each year while on the phone, a rate roughly 45 times higher than the comparable rate in the U.S. At the time Australian phones weren’t connected to the house electrical ground. Now they are”.

I think I’d remember if phone techs suddenly came around to every house in Australia (maybe 5 million or so) and fitted grounding wires to their phone systems. Not to mention hearing about more than one person a week being killed by lightning on the phone - I mean here in Sydney we hear on the news about a single kidnapped child in Melbourne, 1,000km away.

Does anyone have any idea whether this is based on anything factual? Or just some warped reportage he picked up from some US source? :dubious:

I agree absolutely AndrewT. If there had been 60-80 deaths per annum, I think it might have got a bit of publicity.

(And here I thought this was going to be a thread about how the old Aussie rotary dial phones went counterclockwise.)

The media can have glaring blindness about certain common events. In the US, a couple thousand people a day die from cigarette smoking related illnesses. That’s not news. A girl getting murdered in Colorado years ago is still news to this day. This is especially true that the Murdoch-ization of “news” has spread worldwide. Basically, if a lot of people die a certain way all the time, no one in the media cares in the least.

People have distortions of fear. Nevermind the actual stats. The media goes after the fear. That’s where the A$ is.

Well, the column says “injured”, not “killed”. I doubt if every injury in the Northern Territory gets reported in Sydney. I agree, though, that it’s strange that you don’t remember any large-scale phone modernization. It would be nice if Cecil would favour us with his comments.

Isn’t all you Aussies know about is herding kangaroo and koala bears, and newfangled things like electricity puzzles you? :wink:

That general figure of injuries in Australia due to lightning strikes near phones is available on multiple sites by Googling. I haven’t been able to find the origin as yet.

Not the ones I used …

At least we know how to fill out the “Location” field on SDMB, unlike folks from wherever you hail from.

Information supplied by Emergency Management Australia.

Well if that’s so then Cecil’s claim that the number of Australians injured by lightning on the phone reduced since the 80s is incorrect!

I’m in Tasmania (the island state hanging off the bottom of mainland Australia, for you 'merkins).

I saw someone get shocked by using a phone during a storm, in either 1990 or 1991.

I just happened to be facing them at the time when I saw a flash from the handset, followed almost instantaneously by what looked like a tiny ball of light travelling from one of their bare feet across a carpeted floor into a heater. The heater was one of those off-peak heatbanks that is full off bricks and bolted to the floor.

The phone was wrecked and the person who received the shock suffered mild damage to their eardrum. They scorched it basically, leaving them with temporary hearing loss. I don’t think they suffered any permanent damage.

It was a pretty impressive sight, though I’m not so eager to see it repeated that I’ve ever considered using a phone during a lightening storm since. :wink:

That’s either a reference to a Simpsons episode or a commonly held mistake about the coriolis effect causing water to drain in different directions in the N. and S. hemispheres.

You needn’t go so far afield, Call me Frank, since Cecil Himself has addressed the clockwise/counterclockwise drains: Do bathtubs drain counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere?
ftg was obviously making a joke ref to the old myth.

Strange. I must not have read that one, as I’m usually better at recalling what Cecil has enlightened us about…

It was that very same column which first brought me to the Dope. Ah, such sweet, innocent days. sigh

Nobody is claiming 60-80 deaths per annum. The statement was “60 to 80 Australians were injured. I see no reason why there would be any publicity about hearing damage and burns.

So what about cordless phones? Perhaps a SDSAB member could expound on whether you would just get a loud noise, or a ruptured or burned eardrum, or nothing at all? Air is a poor conductor, after all.

THere’s ab book by Howard Jacobson abut an extended trip he (and Aussie wife) made to various places in Oz, in which he refers to reading some official or semi-official advice leaflet or tourist advice book - certianly on originating in Oz. He reads the bit about telephones and thinks “Eek, OK, I had heard about snaky things and spidery things but I had never previously thought of the humble telphone in the hotel room as being an object of danger”.

He and wife did go to some pretty out-of-the way places, so all I mean is it coudl well have been the case in tiny townships in the middle of nowhere. Not sure when it was published - I reckon approx 10 to 15 years ago. He adored Oz ad I don’t at all think he was making that up to make fun of it.

Didn’t that used to be called Sri Lanka?

Just kidding. Take it easy!

In the 1970’s I was in the Canadian militia as a signalman. I spent a few months working with the regular Army at CFB Petawawa, which has large manuever and exercise areas. There was a military phone system which provided service to various points in the manuever areas, and which was pretty old-fashioned. It had a manual switchboard, the phone wires were two strands of uninsulated wire, often tacked to convenient trees (they were replacing the trees with regular telephone poles while I was there), and there were lightning protectors installed wherever there was a phone connected to the system. One of the regular tasks was to drive the lines checking the lightneng protectors and replace the burnt carbon blocks if they had been burned by a lightning strike. I suspect that some parts of Australia may still have phone systems of this vintage.