Pulling electric meters: Do you? I do!
Do you pull electric meters? I've had cause to pull the meter at two recent structure fires (including one of the church arsons reported on FH.com's front page), and I recently saw an article addressing this issue on another site.
In 1996 we had two firefighters suffer significant electrical shocks during an interior attack. Since then, if crews go in, the chief pulls the meter, period. He feels that he would rather place himself in harm's way than his firefighters, and did so even before we had meter pullers (see them at www.meterpuller.com ).
Eight days ago, we were preparing to mount an interior attack at a working fire in a SFD. It was confined to one room, and we stood to make a good save on it. I was OIC and elected to pull the meter, but I did check to see if it was turning before I removed it. It was not, so out it came. We confined fire damage to one room.
Saturday night at the church fire the main flames had been knocked down before anyone got around to the meter. It was turning, so I went into the basement and threw the main breaker before pulling it.
I realize there is danger involved, but I'm with my chief on this--if I'm in charge and crews are going in, I will assume the risk and take it off of them. I would add that this is a judgement call left up to the OIC and is not mandated of anyone who does not feel comfortable with it. And in mobile home fires, we are able to throw a main breaker on the pole and leave the meter alone.
So do you pull them? Under what circumstances would your answer change? And with that, what are typical power company response times? Do you initiate interior attacks with meters still hot?
We cut wires, never pulled a meter
Meter pulling is new to me. Learn something new everyday. From what you wrote, I can see why some of your department members may do this.
We used what was called 'the mechanical axe' to cut live or suspected live wires, if memory serves me correctly, up to 440 volts. We had linemen gloves with the rubber inserts. We would always try to stand on some type of insulating non conducting material, like a salvage cover, piece of dry wood, etc.,
Our SOP's on a structure fire, especially a single family residence, for ease of example's sake. , would be the tillerman from the truck company would cut utilities.
The normal area we would cut is the feed point coming into the structure, where the drip loops are. Cut all 3, (very good 4th of July show most of the time) and use the mechanical axe to seperate the lines from joining back together.
I can say from experience, at least 3 times come to immediate mind where I was shocked, I was inside, search n rescue, pack rat conditions and got shocked. The other one was a trailer fire and another was a different pack rat. IF THE ELECTRICITY CANNOT BE CUT, EVERY ONE SHOULD BE MADE AWARE OF IT!! The 2 out of the 3 times, a firefighter goofed, could not find the wires, was a commercial bldg, and failed to tell the rest of us.
As far as new construction where the power is underground, I never ran across one. Having owned a house with underground power lines, I would throw the main switch to shut the power off. That is me, not any official FD statement.
The mechanical axe somewhat resembles a tree limb pruner, with jaws open up, insulated pole, rope, pulley assembly.
The blades are replaceable due to the damage they get from the electricity arcs.
It doesn't always cut the power
Pulling the meter can cut the power - in new, residential installations
I have seen several "rural" shops that had 3 phase power, the meters been pulled, and two legs of the 3 phase still had juice.
I've also seen where the meter has been "bypassed" by some Red Green electricians. You know, the ones where the wires are wrapped in duct tape?
Pulling the meter won't guarantee the power shut off in all instances
just my 2 cents
Never Say Never.................
I can't say we NEVER pull a meter, but, there has to be some unusual situation to warrant it, we do not pull one as a matter of routine. There are a number of things to consider, such as "will the situation get worse if I do this?" Quite often, yes, things will get worse, or at least the potential is there. Bypassed meters, Bare wires exposed, Broken glass, are just a few things that can result from peoples use(misuse) of electricity. Turn off ALL the breakers and let the power company handle the rest. Stay Safe....