1. #1
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    Exclamation Don't Pull That Meter!

    I have just returned from an electrical safety class, that was offered to all FFs in the county. Pee Dee Electric showed a video and talked to us about what to do and not to do, on the fire ground or on any scene involving power of some sort. here’s my question...
    Does your dept have any written SOP about not pulling meters and what to do from the electrical aspect of the fire ground? Question 2: Has your dept or county done anything like this to help firefighters become more aware of the electrical hazards of the fire ground?

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    We had a similar class quite some time ago, watching the meter explode as it is pulled off the meter box is a very eye opening thing. We actually had a fire caused by an electrician doing the same thing, the only thing that saved him was that he was standing below the meter when it let go.

    We periodically have electrical safety classes, in one class the instructor told us of a police officer that was injured when he moved a cable tv wire that was down of the road. Unbenownst to the officer it had flipped up over the primarys 2 poles back and became energized.

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    I also got to see the meter explode. I believe that every FF should go through a class of this nature.

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    The last fire I was first due on was in an old barn with some illegal wiring. The meter blew just as we got there, the fire burned through the energized wires, which came down over two of our rigs.

    By the way...the barn was full of "junk". The fire was contained to the small addition and the outside wall area.

    If you have to kill the juice, do it at the electrical panel by throwing the main breaker. Our SOP is to have Mass Electric respond to all confirmed fires and kill the power at the pole.
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    Them darn things used to scare the bejibies out of me way back when. Then we never had the classes available as they are now to teach ya not to do it, heck the chief then had a class on how to do it. I do wish we had the knowledge we have now then, but since we didn't, we did what we had to.
    Now days, I would have to agree Gonzo, our SOG's are pretty similiar on those types of incidents, and we also cut power at the main box when able.


    KEEP DOING IT FOR THE RIGHT REASONS!!!!!!!!!!!

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    I'll do you one better. How many FD's have the SOP to send a guy into the basement to turn off all the circuit breakers in the panel?

    You are sending a man to stand in water (usually) and stick his hand into a panel that he has no idea if it is grounded properly, wired properly, is functioning properly or even it was the cause of the fire. He has no idea who did the wiring or if it was done with permits and inspected.

    It seems to me that that fire fighter is in far more danger doing that than he would be if he just went about fighting the fire and waiting for the power company to come turn the service off.

    In almost 20 years of invesigating fires on a full-time basis, I have never had a case where a fire fighter was injured inside the building by coming into contact with 120VAC. Seems like a risk/gain analysis would say to leave it alone.

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    Default ZZZZZap!

    Our SOP...it's the electric company's meter, we don't touch it. As far as the inside circuit breakers it's an SOG to let the Deputy decide if and when the breakers are hit. We carry an electrical detector on each rig and usualy use it on every call where it is needed.

    Our local company (NYSEG) runs a very informitave lecture on the hazards of electricity. It is contained on a trailer with power poles, a transformer and several types of boxes and meters. It is very eye opening when you see a 10' blue arc toast a hotdog in 2 seconds inside a linesman's rubber safety glove like it had been microwaved for 10 min.
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    I personally was not aware that the meters would blow up, so I learned something today!!!

    Our unit policy is that hydro gets disconnected by the Hydro guys as soon as is possible, unless the line get burned out first. Since I joined up we have only had one real full blown structure fire, and it was the only time that hydro was there faster than the usual say.... .... .... oh 45 min to .....(how many hours later). They are not very quick off the mark when we call for them.
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    Wink Welcome back George....

    Originally posted by George Wendt, CFI
    How many FD's have the SOP to send a guy into the basement to turn off all the circuit breakers in the panel?
    Our SOP is to have the utility company handle what they are trained to do...and that usually means cutting the power at the pole.

    By throwing breakers or pulling fuses in the electrical panel...do you risk tampering with possible evidence? I've seen instances where homeowners secured breakers, so they could not trip....and rigged fuses with coins.
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    Nice post.....I agree with the last post....wait for PP&L. They are trained to do it. Thats like PP&L showing up at a house fire, are they properly trained or equipped to do something? Probably not.......Leave the Electrical work to the Professionals.



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    cctruck17,

    I agree leave it to the pros. Do you know if pp&l has
    any type class or info on this topic.


    Stay Safe
    Work Hard

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    My Dept has been trained by the Edison reps on how to properly pull the meter or cut the drip loops. The outside man on the first due truck is usually responsible for cutting electric and gas after ventilating. We do it on every fire, and have not had a problem. SOP requires lineman's gloves, full gear, shield down, and another member with eyes on you while you're doing it.

    That said, I have never liked doing it. I also feel that, in our Dept, this task has assumed an importance beyond what is necessary. There are many important tasks delayed for this. I haven't heard of anyone hurt by electricity during one of our fires. I think it just grew out of our resident instructor/know it all pushing it so he could help teach it.

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    Our SOG is to let Power Company disconnect. Lucky for us we have one of their substation garages in town, so they are on scene (for a fire) within minutes. Of course, if it's a wire down and no life hazard, it takes them at least 30 minutes to show up.

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    At least once a year we run a class on electrical safety. We watch a video put out by B.C. Hydro. It starts with a close up of the persons face as he is talking it slowly pulls back to show he is wearing prosthesis on both arms which he lost in an elecrical accident. (Gets your attention) Every couple of years B.C. Hydro comes in and runs a class to teach the new people and remind us old people about the hazzards.

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    By throwing breakers or pulling fuses in the electrical panel...do you risk tampering with possible evidence? I've seen instances where homeowners secured breakers, so they could not trip....and rigged fuses with coins.

    There is no question that this is tampering with evidence unneccesarily. The investigator needs to know the position and condition of all breakers and fuses. It is more important to know which breakers DID NOT trip than the ones that did (the ones that did, did their job).

    Let's look at this another way.

    Power company employees are highly trained professionals. They have to be. How loud would you scream if they began to pumps and hose on their trucks and began to fight fires?

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    We don't pull meters. Common practice 'round these parts until a few years ago (before our FD was here)was to put an ax through the meter. The electric company didn't really like it.

    Being out here in the sticks, it can take a while for the electric company to show, but they are usually on-scene in 20 minutes or less for a structure.
    Bryan Beall
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    As for the safety for our people, before any electric is attempted to be degenerized, the safety officer will conduct a quick look at all electrical components for any possible electricution hazards. If the said safety officer feels that the electric is secure enough to degenerize, and if degeneration of electricity is a must then and only then will this be done at the main by trained members.If at all possible the electricity will be degenerized at the meter by AEP crew members, furthermore no firefighter will be permitted to pull any meter for any reason.
    As for possible evidence tampering, folks the evolutions we complete during such fires can and do at times alter an evidence pattern. However, if the firefighters and or officers have any inclination that the firemay be suspicous in origin, the crews make every attempt not to alter any such evidence.
    The fire departments normal wait for AEP crews are 30-45 minutes on a normal day. Therefore, we do our routine somewhat different than others. That is just the way it is here.


    KEEP DOING IT FOR THE RIGHT REASONS!!!!!!!!!!

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    Default electrical connections

    In our department, we are fortunate to have a power company employee as ***'t Chief, and our Chief used to be an electrician. They have quite a bit of knowledge about the meters & power lines. Our SOP calls for any trained personnel to pull the meter. I, personally, missed the meter pulling class, so I will not do it. I always wondered if it was safe to have an 100 Amp (or more) open hole that is energized on the wall. Would it not be safer to leave it intact and depend on the fuse of the circuit you are touching? By the way, at a structure fire once, I felt a tingle through my wet gloves as I was leaning through a window and supporting myself on the frame. The wires were fastened to the frame of the window on the inside, and the electricity was conducting through the water on frame to my gloves. Not a big jolt, but enough to feel, and it was getting stronger before I realized it was a shock.

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    As for possible evidence tampering, folks the evolutions we complete during such fires can and do at times alter an evidence pattern. However, if the firefighters and or officers have any inclination that the firemay be suspicous in origin, the crews make every attempt not to alter any such evidence.
    The fire departments normal wait for AEP crews are 30-45 minutes on a normal day. Therefore, we do our routine somewhat different than others. That is just the way it is here


    Evidence that is altered or moved during the course of a dynamic fire suppression operation is one thing. Purposely altering items that do not have to be moved is quite another. Arson is not the only thing a fire investigator looks for. He is looking to determine the origin and cause of the fire, regardless if it is incendiary. The elimination of accidental causes is vital to the investigation process. When breakers or fuses are altered or moved, and it is my opinion that it is never necessary to place a fire fighter in danger to touch the panel, it negates the value of the evidence that may be contained in the panel.

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    See... you learn something new every day. We don't have it written down as an SOG, but we flip the outside breaker switch, if found (or a disconnect on the newer homes). And one of the first arriving people should get the pole number and have the dispatcher contact CP&L or Pee Dee Electric. If I saw somebody pulling a meter, whether they are "trained" or not (unless they are the power company) I probably would do every thing I could to stop them. The meter only MEASURES (hints the name meter). The meter is not a switch, so pulling it does no good, especially on three phase voltage.
    The guy with the power company said before he left "If you don't mess with our wires, we won't mess with your fires." And i hope to keep it that way!

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    Unless it's absolutely needed, we let the Power Company take care of the electric. If it does become needed, we have "hot sticks" to cut the drip wires. In my experience, it is very rare when we have to use them before the power company gets there.

    Even if we do cut them, our policy is to treat them as live until a qualified person tells us different.

    I have never trusted cutting the power at the circut box. I have seen too many people who tap in above the box, eliminating the need for a breaker switch.

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    O.K. so the officer or officers that switch the darn breakers can relay the needed info to the investigators as to what breakers were turned which way as compared to the setting they were initially in.
    George, you and I can go on forever it seems as to the scene preservation. However, we do not purposely alter evidence if there is no need to, but if we do have to move anything in the course of evolutions we document everything that was moved and why for furth3er investigation purposes.
    So to say that we purposely alter evidence would be a falsity, and as far as altering evidence on evolutions we do not attempt to do that either, but sometimes it happens here and other places without us knowing it.


    KEEP DOING IT FOR THE RIGHT REASONS!!!!!!!!!!!

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    If properly educated their is no problem with pulling RESIDENTIAL meters, cutting drip loops, or utilizing the buildings own shut offs to de energize a structure.

    We have been trained by Commonwelth Edison instructors on the electrical distribution system, shutting off power using the regular disconnects, pulling type s meters, testing the meter housing for power and cutting overhead service. Their is no problem with well trained professional firefighters doing this.

    If you don't have he training then you could be seriously injured or killed. Is that any different from interior firefighting, driving an emergency vehicle, wildland firefighting, confined space rescue, dive rescue, trench rescue...

    You need the support of the power company, but it isn't any different than anything else we do.

    An educated firefighter is a safe firefighter

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    O.K. so the officer or officers that switch the darn breakers can relay the needed info to the investigators as to what breakers were turned which way as compared to the setting they were initially in.


    You're kidding, right. In a 200 amp panel there are spaces for what 40-50 breakers? So a FF that is in the middle of fighting a working fire is going to remember the position of all the breakers in the panel? Or he is going to unscrew the fuses and remember which fuse came from which hole? This is laughable and never happens, at least in the 18 years I have been investigating fires full-time.

    So to say that we purposely alter evidence would be a falsity, and as far as altering evidence on evolutions we do not attempt to do that either, but sometimes it happens here and other places without us knowing it.

    If you move evidence, such as the position of a circuit breaker, it is done purposely. If it is done unnecesarrily, like I believe it is every time, it is tampering with evidence. It is not a "falsity".

    I never said that items would not be inadvertently moved during the fire suppression operation. I have never seen a circuit breaker moved inadvertently by a fire stream or pike pole.

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    You're kidding, right. In a 200 amp panel there are spaces for what 40-50 breakers? So a FF that is in the middle of fighting a working fire is going to remember the position of all the breakers in the panel
    Would it not be better to just flip the Main breaker which will de-energize the rest of the panel? That would leave all other breakers in whatever state they were left in.

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