1. #1
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    Default Firefighter's Shocked (and I don't mean surprised!)

    Does anyone remember the last time these forums erupted over the whole pull-the meter, don't-pull-the-meter argument? I think this is the first time I've heard of anyone getting zapped while fighting a fire.

    Maybe there's more to this story. Has anyone had any similar experiences? I'm looking for direction on developing an SOG....

    Houston FFs Shocked

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    Had two guys on my FD shocked in '96 at a house fire. They were OK.

    Our chief leaves it up to our discretion as to whether we pull the meter if he's not there. But he's almost always there, and if we have people going in, he will pull the meter. He would rather risk getting himself hurt than some of his crew; he's that kind of chief.

    Fortunately a lot of our fires are mobile homes, which have a cutoff on the pole that will de-juice the entire structure. We are always looking at 45+ minutes for the power company to arrive; you can't wait on that.
    ďI am more than just a serious basketball fan. I am a life-long addict. I was addicted from birth, in fact, because I was born in Kentucky.Ē
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    The problem is there is not enough information in the story to indicate what type of electrical line this was. We don't know if this was a 120V AC line or a house service line. I would wait until we have all the facts before we start debating this fire.

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    Probably making myself look dumb, but I'm not going to learn anything if I don't ask!
    What exactly does "pull the meter" mean.
    Any statements I have made are my statements, and my statements alone.

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    iceman4442
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    "Pulling the meter" refers to physically removing the electric meter from its housing to de-energize the structure it supplies. With the meter gone, there is no juice flowing through its circuit, so there should not be any electricity to surprise anyone! (Assuming it's the only meter!)

    A frequently debated technique as to whether we should pull them or wait for the power company. Our department has it good - we have several memebers who work for the local power company, and we carry tools for them to use to pull meters and such. (I don't do electricity!)


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    iceman4442
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    Lightbulb

    Oh yeah, I forgot - you don't look dumb asking what you may think is a dumb question! (You may, however, look very dumb with an electicity-induced afro hairdo!)

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    We have a simple answer to this due to Workers Compensation. No pulling meters. Period.

    Does it cause delays and frustrations. Sure it does, but no Firefighters have been injured/killed due to this action for many years.

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    THE STORY IS NOT THE BEST. FROM WHAT I HEARD ON TV IS THAT THERE WAS A SERVICE LINE GOING INTO THE HOUSE. THE FF WERE TAKING A LADDER FROM THE TRUCK AND PLACED IT ON THE ROOF. SOMEHOW THEY SHOT WATER ON THE LINE AND GOT A ZAP. THEY WERE NOT PULLING THE METER OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. OLD ABADONED HOUSE. FF'S WERE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
    CHRIS

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    Instead of pulling the meter off the wall...wouldn't flipping all the circut breakers off do the same thing? I know some houses the breakers are in the basement so that is likely not an option...but in my house, and many other ones around here, the breaker is immediately inside the garage on the other side of the wall from the meter... I'm not sure if this would be the same as pulling the meter...but if it gets the job done with less destruction to property and less of a hassle to the local power grid..not to mention this would probably be a quicker method, everyone would be happier..

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    Originally posted by Stingray69ZL1
    Instead of pulling the meter off the wall...wouldn't flipping all the circut breakers off do the same thing? I know some houses the breakers are in the basement so that is likely not an option...but in my house, and many other ones around here, the breaker is immediately inside the garage on the other side of the wall from the meter... I'm not sure if this would be the same as pulling the meter...but if it gets the job done with less destruction to property and less of a hassle to the local power grid..not to mention this would probably be a quicker method, everyone would be happier..
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    NEVER shut all the breakers off! Two reasons:
    1. You are in far more danger standing in a dark damp, basement, probably in a puddle of water, sticking your hand into a energized piece of electrical equipment that you are unfamiliar with, have no idea if it is the cause of the fire or if it is installed according to code. You will risk more injury doing that than by leaving it alone and waiting for the power company.

    2. You are screwing up a key piece of evidence that the fire investigator needs to make an accurate determination of the origin and cause of the fire. The fire investigator needs to see ALL the breakers. The ones that tripped did their job. The ones that did NOT trip may be a key to the fire cause.

    They don't carry hose and a pump on a power co. utility truck.

    BTW, some of you guys crack me up. We don't want an off-duty police officer to do his job while he is working with the FD, but letting off-duty power company guys do their job unsafely is A-OK! Please.

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    I'm not in favor of pulling meters either. Many homes have 200 or more amp service, the arc/flash potential is tremendous for burns and injury due to exploding meters when improperly pulled. The possibility of a "bypass" meter, where only a small amount of current is metered for billing purposes could give a false sense of security. These meters do not interupt the flow of current. Pulling the meter does nothing to eliminate power between the house and the pole, that line has been the most dangerous in my experience. Wiring inside of the house is generally protected in walls and fixtures and poses very little threat during routine operations. Opening the main breaker is a possibility, but should be evaluated in light of what George is saying ref: damp or poor visibility conditions in the basement. My fire investigation training is the same as George's in regard to opening breakers, we have been advised to only open the main if we can and note the position of the others if we can. Illegal hook ups are another nightmare that pulling the meter will not solve. Wait for the power company and use caution opening up walls prior to cutting power.

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    We also don't pull meters. We also had an incident involving our local utility company. We had a fire in a townhouse, they reported to the IC that all power had been turned off. 2 firefighters received an electrial shock through a handline. The utility, a very large and well known to all in the area denied that 1)they received an electrical shock and 2)denied that they told the IC that all power was eliminated, despite logging such in his daily activity sheet and having a firefighter and 2 bystanders report that they heard the employee say such. Our municipality after threatening lawsuits got the company to repay any lost compensation to the firefighters.

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    Default Pulling Meters?

    From an earlier posting it appears that wasn't the case in the Houston Fire. However, since the subject is being explored I have a comment. I work in a So-Cal Fire Dept. and haven't seen a meter pulled at a fire in over 10 years. The last time was at a large house fire in our City (10 years ago) when a mutual aid Engine Co pulled it. The Engineer was shocked and thrown into a wood fence about 20 feet away. Other than changin his shorts later (no pun intended) he ended up o.k. What we do is cut the drip loops from the pole to the house on the Weatherhead. This is done with a fused cutting tool with an extention and the guy/gal cutting has rubberized and insulated gloves on. I have never heard of this going wrong and the end result is no power to the house or structure anywhere.

    I believe all companies in my area cut power this way if isolating breakers isn't appropriate.

    Just my 2 cents

    Brett
    The art of leadership is getting others to do what you want...because they want to do it Eisenhower

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    We never pull meters because we had to learn the hard way--

    One night, we had the meter pulled (luckily it didn't explode on us) but little did we know...it was a bypass and the house was still hot.
    The fire was out and we were in the overhaul stage with a Lt supervising. It was night, he couldn't see too well, one wrong step onto the house supply line (which had burned through and dropped on to the ground--no sparks) and he went into arrest! It took him several days in the hospital to get a normal heart rhythm back.

    He was very lucky and it pretty much changed SOP for everyone in our area. Now, after a structure fire is confirmed, the power company comes out to pull the power at the pole and we assume that the power is hot all the time. We also recieved extra training on avoiding the threat of electrocution and all rookies get "enhanced awareness" of safety issues like electricity. That's when we realized we were in real danger pulling meters and attempting to play with the electricity ourselves.

    Fortunately our man fully recovered and went back to full duty but he won't mind telling anyone the story and he's the first to tell you he was lucky.

    Stay safe, let the electricians do thier job--
    "When you are safe at home, you wish you were having an adventure-when you're having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home"

    --Thornton Wilder

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    Story by Click2Houston

    HOUSTON -- Three Houston firefighters were shocked by loose electrical wires
    early Friday morning, battling a blaze at a home.


    The fire broke out shortly before 4 a.m. at the vacant home, located in the
    7800 block of Corinth in southwest Houston.

    Investigators told News2Houston that the firefighters, Sean Carruthers,
    Gonda Lavulavis and Capt. Mike Chetwood, were trying to extinguish the blaze
    from inside the home's attic when the roof collapsed and dropped a loose
    electrical wire on top of them and shocked them.

    Paramedics rushed the firemen to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where two of
    them were treated and released.

    Authorities said that the third firefighter was in stable condition, being
    treated for a sporadic heartbeat caused by the shock.

    "They're still experiencing some tingling in their lower extremities, their
    feet and the ends of their hands and fingers," said Capt. Jay Evans, the
    fire department's spokesman.

    Fire officials said that the firemen's protective clothing protected them
    from being burned or severely injured.

    The cause of the fire is under investigation.

    The home suffered heavy fire and smoke damage.
    "DON'T GO IN THERE!!! DON'T YOU KNOW THERE IS A FIRE IN THERE!!!!"

    "YOU'RE KILLING ME ROOK"

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    Upon confirmation of a structure fire by first arriving officer generally our dispatch is pretty good about notifying the utilities. They will either call and notify the chief, or as the chief if they want the utilities called. We will begin working the fire as the electrical utility is not the most reliable when it comes to a quick response, the fuel utility is better about that type of thing.
    So to answer your question we do not pull meters. And George you will be happy to know we dont touch breaker boxes except to note which ones were tripped.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

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    Why is it that to turn off the gas supply to a house, all you have to do is turn a knob. But to turn off the electricity to a house, you need a degree in rocket science, $1,000 worth of specialized equipment, and still risk killing yourself? Anyone???

    Stay Safe

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    Dealing with a gas line is easier for a few reasons. 1) The container it's in. A steal pipe which won't bite you. With chemical additives you can most of the time smell where the leak is. 2) Cost to put a shut off valve is cheap and easy. 3) Attached to the house. Most gas meters are right next to the house with the line going under ground. Shut it off the problems over.

    Electric lines are a whole other story. With breaker boxes being put on the outside of most new houses the main breaker can be tripped, but the problem is that only takes care of the house. Not the lines over your head coming into the house. 2) More people are known for stealing electricity then they are gas because of the cost difference. Gas is cheaper. So hitting the main breaker does not guarantee that all the power is off.

    It is a risk of the job. The only way around it that I see is to stay out of the building till the electric company gets there and we both know this is not going to happen. So just hope for the best. No one ever said this wasn't a dangerous job
    "DON'T GO IN THERE!!! DON'T YOU KNOW THERE IS A FIRE IN THERE!!!!"

    "YOU'RE KILLING ME ROOK"

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    It's comparing apples and oranges. The physical properties are so different, the discussion can't even be held.

    If the properties weren't different, can you imagine the mess from all those electrons falling onto the floor from the open outlets?

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    PA Volunteer,

    Iím one of those with the expensive degree (Electrical Engineer not Rocket) and just thinking of all the differences makes my head hurt. Here is what I think matters most.

    Unlike LP or Natural gas which has an odor, electricity canít be sensed until you touch it (Well OK, if the charge is big enough your skin will tingle or itch but thatís usually just before the lighting bolt hits you. And Iíve heard that you get itchy feet if you get too close to a downed primary wire but never by any one living, itís just a rumor).

    Electricity takes the path of least resistance but that path is so convoluted and twisted that trying to determine all of the paths would make your head explode(or at least my head).
    Take a bucket of water and dump down a hill, see all of the paths the water takes as it runs down the hill? Same kind of thing with electricity. No one can tell you if all the pathways are accounted for. A good example is this story from Houston, I would have given even money that the bunker gear would have given enough protection from a falling wire to prevent injury. Didnít work the way I thought though.

    And that is the final and most basic point. Electricity has very complicated properties, almost all of which, when at high enough potential will kill you. There are very few people (who know what there talking about) that will guarantee a live circuit is safe.

    Billís Golden Rule, ďIf itís more than 25v, turn it off before working on itĒ. And I always let the pros work the high voltage. I donít have the experience or training to be pulling meters or cutting primaries.

    Bill

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    To everyone ... I understand that gas and electricity are vastly different. The question was more of a rhetorical one.

    The real question is, why do we even have to risk it? We can put a man on the moon, yet we can't find a simple way for fire departments to shut down electricity at the pole/source. It is either risk your life doing something that you may or may not have the training to do, say "screw it" and deal with the risk, or watch someone's house burn due to the simple fact that you can not operate safely due to the electrical shock hazard.

    On Monday evening, I heard R. David Paulison, Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration, speak. He brought up several instances similar to the question I posed above. He gave the example of buying a SCUBA tank in Alaska, flying to Australia, and, with no problem being able to buy a regulator to fit the tank. Yet, you can't take a cylinder from a SCOTT pack, and put it on an MSA, or an Interspiro, or a Drager ... you get the idea. Another example ... why has the construction industry figured out how to have a common thread size for everything, yet the fire service can't.

    For the record, these are all rhetorical questions that can not be answered right now. Hopefully, they will be answered soon.

    Stay Safe

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    On Monday evening, I heard R. David Paulison, Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration, speak. He brought up several instances similar to the question I posed above. He gave the example of buying a SCUBA tank in Alaska, flying to Australia, and, with no problem being able to buy a regulator to fit the tank. Yet, you can't take a cylinder from a SCOTT pack, and put it on an MSA, or an Interspiro, or a Drager ... you get the idea. Another example ... why has the construction industry figured out how to have a common thread size for everything, yet the fire service can't.
    Money, bro...money.

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    Unhappy

    All very interesting. Sounds like the only real answer is to call the utility and roll the dice hoping you don't get struck by lightening.

    I know the odds are low. Just trying to elimate as many of the dangers as possible.

    I guess just send the firefighter who's had the most to drink tonight cut the drip loops.

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