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    Default Electricity and Firefighting

    I am curious what other Dept policies are regarding waiting for utility companies to cut power to structures prior to fire suppression.

    My supervisor has instructed me to always wait.....this seems retarded to me.


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    Forum Member CGITCH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wraithlord View Post
    I am curious what other Dept policies are regarding waiting for utility companies to cut power to structures prior to fire suppression.

    My supervisor has instructed me to always wait.....this seems retarded to me.
    It depends on your area. In some areas, department personnel are allowed to pull meters and cut power. It may be possible to shut the main of in the panel, but sometimes it isnt. We are lucky enough to have 3 of our utility company personnel on our fire department plus one electrician (My father), who all three can safely (and without much flak from the power companies), cut power to any structure by PULLING THE METER.

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    I couldn't imagine waiting for the utility co where we are. At times it could take up to a half hour or better (one of the "perks" of being in the country). Most in our company know how to pull the meter. Just have to make sure it makes it in the hands of the operator when they get there

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    Both our trucks carry fuse pullers and fuses are pulled as soon as possible. We've got a guy coming to give our brigade a talk on electricity and fires next training night, including houses with solar panels that feed back into the grid.

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    Our Truck companies pull the electric meter as part of their outside duties.
    Bill Geyer
    LT, Engine 27
    Memphis Fire Dept.

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    Forum Member Blulakr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waccofatboy View Post
    I couldn't imagine waiting for the utility co where we are. At times it could take up to a half hour or better (one of the "perks" of being in the country). Most in our company know how to pull the meter. Just have to make sure it makes it in the hands of the operator when they get there
    We would never save a structure if we had to wait for utilities. We usually just shut everything off in the breaker panel.

    Gas gets shut off as well.

    Good topic. I will bring this up at drill tonight and discuss pulling the meter.

    Solar panels are another problem. From what I understand as long as they have daylight on them they are producing voltage and potentially harmful even if they are turned off at their control panel.
    Last edited by Blulakr; 06-30-2010 at 03:51 PM.

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    The most we do as FFs is flip ONLY the main breaker (the circuit breakers might tell an investigator something later on). Once an incident is marked as working, dispatch automatically notifies the power company and they are there usually quickly for a fire to do their stuff.

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    Flip only the main breaker. Branch circuits left as is for FMO. If the main doesn't get it, meter pulling or other "extraordinary measures" left for the power company (they'll also pull the taps on the lines directly, or whatever, as needed). Often when the main isn't enough, it's an illegal hookup where the meter is bypassed anyway (jumper cables, extension cords to next door, etc.) so puling the meter won't do anyway.

    Electric training given to entire department, repeatedly, by power company; they constantly drive home the point "they don't fight our fires, so don't touch their wires"... Their training not only covers dwelling fires, but also downed wires, fires on a pole/transformers, fires in subgrade electrical vaults (confined spaces), substations, any situation that involves sparky. The other constant point driven home for those other situations - if no life safety issue, let it burn. Especially the substations/transformers/vaults; you can be all gung ho and aggressive, put out the fire and maybe not get hurt/killed. For what? They flat out say they're not using any of that stuff again, all you're saving is scrap. It is a well run program they have, and it is specifically tailored to FFs. I highly reccommend contacting your local utility to see if they offer a similar program in your area.

    As for solar as alluded by Blulakr, solar panels are another issue. One difference - we were trained that they are ALWAYS powered, even at midnight or whenever. Suppose a panel array on roof, and there is a main disconnect/kill switch, say at ground level outside. The entire house will get shut down from that kill switch, but the conduit from the switch up to and including the panels themselves shall be considered live.
    Opinions expressed are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Philadelphia Fire Department and/or IAFF Local 22.

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    We shut the main breaker off at the pole; if it does not have a breaker on the pole we pull the meter.

    I have seen panels before that someone had wired in the A/C to the hot side of the panel so the outside A/C unit still had power even when the main breaker in the panel was turned off.

    We have some large homes that are on 3 phase and the electric company has to shut them off, we will kill the mains in the panels but pulling the meter still leaves power going to the house.

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    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wraithlord View Post
    I am curious what other Dept policies are regarding waiting for utility companies to cut power to structures prior to fire suppression.

    My supervisor has instructed me to always wait.....this seems retarded to me.
    Sounds like the policy of an "outstanding" officer.
    Robert Kramer
    cell #901-494-9437

    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Like most said on here, special services (truck or squad) secure the utilities by flipping the main breaker. We wait until the electric co arrives to kill the power to the meter.

    If we waited until the electric company arrived we would be saving foundations. It usually takes them 30 minutes or so to get to the scene.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wraithlord View Post
    I am curious what other Dept policies are regarding waiting for utility companies to cut power to structures prior to fire suppression.

    My supervisor has instructed me to always wait.....this seems retarded to me.
    Well, we don't normally wait sixty minutes to start fighting the fire.

    We call for utilities when working fire is confirmed and they usually get there as we are rolling up the hose.

    We stopped pulling meters sometime in the late seventies.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    OK, just picked up on "prior to fire suppression". Hell no. Usually the utilities are secured as above after the primary search is complete. (The ladder S&R position gets the utilities.)
    Opinions expressed are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Philadelphia Fire Department and/or IAFF Local 22.

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    Thanks for all your input folks. It takes our utility company about 20mins or more to cut power and more often than not it's just a surround and drown. I like the training idea from the utility company. Hopefully, I can make that happen.

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    Something that just occurred to me is some of the new style meters in our area. They aren't directly fed through by the transmission lines. I forget what they are called. With these I can see why people have ceased to pull meters.

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    They are called "Shunt" type meters and work by measuring the voltage drop across a known resistance bar or shunt. The voltage across the shunt is proportional to the current flowing so by multiplying the voltage times the current, the meter can accurately record the amount of watts being consumed by the service. The shunt is permenently attached across the back of the meter socket making a direct connection between the service drop and the load. This type of meter is usually installed where there are high inductive loads (motors) like air conditioners and freezers.
    We no longer pull meters unless there is a significantly large involvement of fire. If you can find a copy of "Electricity and the Firefighter" it will provide some really good information about the dangers of applying water to energized equipment. For the most part, with hose lines, there is very little problem with electricity from a residence following the fire stream back to the nozzleman. The overwhelming danger is from walking in standing water that has been energized in some manner. Usually not apparent to the victim.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wraithlord View Post
    I am curious what other Dept policies are regarding waiting for utility companies to cut power to structures prior to fire suppression.

    My supervisor has instructed me to always wait.....this seems retarded to me.
    We secure the power when a company can get to it (usually assigned to our Truck Co.s) but our first priority in most cases is getting a line in to the seat of the fire and start a primary search.

    We have been running into "grow houses" lately, more often than in the past. They will will disconnect the drop or service line at the weather head and redirect the power to a new breaker panel bypassing the meter completely. Throughout the house, romex wiring is draped into each room with the wires completely exposed.

    Without knowing this initially, one would think the power is off when shutting off at the main breaker, but it's not. The wires are a big entanglement problem for crews. The last two we had in recent months yielded over 300 plants each.

  18. #18
    Forum Member CGITCH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KuhShise View Post
    They are called "Shunt" type meters and work by measuring the voltage drop across a known resistance bar or shunt. The voltage across the shunt is proportional to the current flowing so by multiplying the voltage times the current, the meter can accurately record the amount of watts being consumed by the service. The shunt is permenently attached across the back of the meter socket making a direct connection between the service drop and the load. This type of meter is usually installed where there are high inductive loads (motors) like air conditioners and freezers.
    We no longer pull meters unless there is a significantly large involvement of fire. If you can find a copy of "Electricity and the Firefighter" it will provide some really good information about the dangers of applying water to energized equipment. For the most part, with hose lines, there is very little problem with electricity from a residence following the fire stream back to the nozzleman. The overwhelming danger is from walking in standing water that has been energized in some manner. Usually not apparent to the victim.
    Not quite the same thing as we have. If I remember the name right now they are called CT meters with the CT meaning current transformer. The only wires running to the meters are a few #10 to measure current flow.

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