ESPRESSO MORNINGS

By Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.
Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.

Rapid urbanization has changed the way we do many of our activities including favorite pastimes such as playing in the streets and kite-flying.

Just a few months ago, a boy reportedly sustained severe injuries after he tried on his own to retrieve a kite that got stuck in an overhead powerline.

The incident serves as a wake-up call about the need to raise greater public awareness of the perils posed by flying kites near electrical facilities, particularly power cables.

In the past, there have been incidents of kite-flying mishaps that resulted in power outages and accidents but recently, there has been a significant increase in power interruptions caused by kite-flying.

Data from a power distribution utility showed that for the month of May alone, the number of incidents of electricity service troubles and outages nearly doubled to 60 from 32 in the same month in 2023.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against flying kites in general. I am however simply cautious about it in the interest of public safety and to ensure continuous electricity service.

While there are local government units (LGUs), and energy industry stakeholders that have issued warnings on the risks of flying kites near power lines, there is a need for a more active public information campaign to further minimize the risks associated with it.

Kite-flying in highly urban areas can cause accidents and power outages and should be prohibited given the perils the activity poses. It must be emphasized that the power service disruptions resulting from kite-flying do not only cause discomfort to the affected communities but can also lead to broad adverse impacts on business activities and social services. For example, power outages can halt business operations that in turn results in economic losses while delivery of essential services can be disrupted.

This shows how a simple and seemingly innocent activity can result in unfavorable situations.

In the interest of public safety and to help ensure continuous electricity service, a holistic approach—involving energy industry stakeholders, LGUs, and the general community is necessary to minimize the risks posed by flying kites near power lines.

An active and widespread public safety campaign coupled with regulation is necessary in this regard.

Power distributors can engage communities and raise awareness of the dangers of flying kites near power lines as well as the risk of power outages. LGUs for their part can ban kite-flying near overhead power lines and other electrical facilities to minimize hazards.

Authorities can instead provide designated kite-flying areas free from any hazardous obstacles to mitigate the risks linked with doing the activity near electrical facilities.

Schools can also be tapped in the public information campaign given that many kite-flyers are children or young people. Children should be educated from an early age about the risks of flying kites near electrical facilities and should be warned of the dangers of retrieving their kites personally if these get entangled in power lines.

If a kite gets caught in a power line, this should be reported to the power distributor since these companies have trained and skilled personnel who could safely retrieve the item.

For ordinary citizens, refraining from flying kites near power lines and discouraging other people from doing the same is a significant contribution not just promoting public safety but also ensuring continuous electricity service.

Community members should also be encouraged to report unsafe kite-flying activities to authorities and to promote public safety.

While kite-flying is a leisurely activity, it must be done responsibly and mindfully so that we can all contribute to the cultivation of safer communities which we all stand to collectively benefit from.