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    Default Electrical Utilities

    The essentials book says if practical, leave the electrical utility in service at the fire location in order to power lighting, tools, fans, etc.

    I assume this is for small contents fires, burning pots on the stove, or small compartment fires.

    Is it standard to do this, or do most departments secure the utilities no matter how small the fire?

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    With us it always varied. If the fire was during the day time working hours, we would usually call Hydro to come down. If it was at night and not a major fire most of the time we'd be better off not calling them because it's going to take them 40+ minutes most of the time to get there. I guess it always depended on who was running the show.
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    When we cut the utilities, we just cut the main breaker. The electric company will pull the meter if needed. What we do is up to the IC, but generally we will have the electric company come out for anything bigger than room and contents.

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    We shut down the breaker box and notify the power co to come out. They say pulling the meter (which NONE of my people do) sometimes doesn't kill the power. Also we were on a M/A RIT assignment and I witnessed a ff pull a meter (this person got a talking to by his supperior officer). I was like WTF is going on here.(not cool)

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    Case by case basis for us. This is one of those areas where a strict policy is not the best idea, but good education and experience about how to handle each case is of high value.

    Just bear in mind that there are lots of interesting and creative ways that people can circumvent what you would normally expect. Bypassed meters, automatic generators, nonconforming (read: amateur and/or illegal) wiring in or around or bypassing breaker panels, multiple breaker panels, dual service feeds. There is some amazing crap out there.

    So there are no guarantees of anything when you cut power by opening breakers, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Your odds are greatly improved of securing power when the power company takes it out at the pole and service drop...........unless the fools buried some extension cord to illegally tap their neighbor, for their growing operation. It never ends!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElectricHoser View Post
    Case by case basis for us. This is one of those areas where a strict policy is not the best idea, but good education and experience about how to handle each case is of high value.

    Just bear in mind that there are lots of interesting and creative ways that people can circumvent what you would normally expect. Bypassed meters, automatic generators, nonconforming (read: amateur and/or illegal) wiring in or around or bypassing breaker panels, multiple breaker panels, dual service feeds. There is some amazing crap out there.

    So there are no guarantees of anything when you cut power by opening breakers, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Your odds are greatly improved of securing power when the power company takes it out at the pole and service drop...........unless the fools buried some extension cord to illegally tap their neighbor, for their growing operation. It never ends!
    Stretching of cords from the neighbors house is getting popular... Just think a bit out of the box sometimes...

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    Quote Originally Posted by SWLAFireDawg View Post
    The essentials book says if practical, leave the electrical utility in service at the fire location in order to power lighting, tools, fans, etc.

    I assume this is for small contents fires, burning pots on the stove, or small compartment fires.

    Is it standard to do this, or do most departments secure the utilities no matter how small the fire?
    Depends on the fire. If it is electrical in nature, it is better to shut off the power. If it is a trash can or something like that no.

    As for leaving it on to power tools, fans, etc. We should not be using the victims property to power our tools. For one, that will run their meter and run their bill. For two, we spec trucks with generators on them, or have gasoline powered fans for that reason. Someone using the victims fans or electricity chances are, is just being to lazy to walk out and get the required item off the truck.
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    We do it dependand on the situation at hand. If it's not much of a fire, we'll try to hit the main breaker or isolate it some other way. If it's an electrical fire or something that's big, or getting big, we'll pull the meter.

    I don't see using lights or fans as a trully legitimate reason to leave the power connected. If there's any question about whether or not to pull the meter or flip the switch, may as well play it on the safe side. Most departments I know have gas-powered vent fans. For lights, we spend thousands of dollars on generators for the trucks, we may as well use them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    If it's an electrical fire or something that's big, or getting big, we'll pull the meter.
    I don't really want to open the debate here lest the thread get hijacked (there are long and painful threads on this topic already), I just want to make sure you know....

    Pulling the meter is not safe, nor recommended. Note that the professionals (power company crews) don't cut off power this way, favoring ladders and bucket trucks to take it at the pole as the safer alternative. Also, with newer-style meters, dual feeds, or illegal modifications, pulling the meter may cut just part or none of the service.

    Just making sure you know..

    End hijack.
    Last edited by ElectricHoser; 07-16-2007 at 12:50 AM.
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    Like stated above, the meters now are made so it doesn't cut the power if removed. Back in the day we took the meters out but in recent years if we need power cut, we shut the main breaker off. Most any real structure fire our communications center automatically calls the power utility to have them respond to take it out at the pole. That is the safest.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWLAFireDawg View Post
    The essentials book says if practical, leave the electrical utility in service at the fire location in order to power lighting, tools, fans, etc.
    I'll string lights from my truck. I don't need house power. The essentials books is a bloated, waxy eyed corpse.

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    deleted message
    Last edited by Flochief; 07-16-2007 at 05:43 AM. Reason: deleted message

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    Electric Hoser
    Pulling the meter is not safe, nor recommended. Note that the professionals (power company crews) don't cut off power this way, favoring ladders and bucket trucks to take it at the pole as the safer alternative. Also, with newer-style meters, dual feeds, or illegal modifications, pulling the meter may cut just part or none of the service.
    Does your power company actually use ladders to open breakers? Down South they use Hot Sticks, just curious. Line men here also climb poles with climbing hooks. in fact the newer buckets do not even have a ladder on it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flochief View Post
    Does your power company actually use ladders to open breakers? Down South they use Hot Sticks, just curious. Line men here also climb poles with climbing hooks. in fact the newer buckets do not even have a ladder on it.
    No, actually they don't use ladders literally for that, I should not have written it that way. my bad.... the guys go up the pole (climb or by bucket) and open the primary tap fuse or transformer high side fuse with a hot stick.

    My main point is that the power company guys - the unquestioned authority on the subject - see it as much safer to go in the air or up the pole instead of to simply pull the meter, and fire guys who keep pulling meters should take a hint. Meter pullers: You wouldn't climb a pole, and they won't pull a meter. Think about it.

    I'm no lineman, I'm just a power dispatcher, but I hear the stories and gripes all the time - from both sides.
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny46 View Post
    I'll string lights from my truck. I don't need house power. The essentials books is a bloated, waxy eyed corpse.
    May be ...... But unfortunately for some this is what we have to get the basics from.

    Just for conversations sake, the Essentials also suggest to leave the meter in place.

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    Here the decision to cut power varies on a case by case basis. All the Pumps carry link sticks (hotsticks) and we pull the fuse on the pole (no i'm not an electrician, if there is more than one fuse we pull them all). The electricity company will then attend and put any fuses back if necessary.

    Would never use on site power for our tools/lights, we have generators etc..

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    It all depends on the call that you have, if it's a trash can burning in the house, with no extension, then yes leave the power on. If it's something that involves electric wires in the house, then I would no doubt have the electric company come out and do what they need to do (whether it be pull the meter, take the wire off at the pole, whatever they deem necessary) as the homeowner is gonna need to have a qualified electrician come out and fix the problem. You never know what the homeowner might try to do, and if something would happen who do you think they are gonna come back on. All of the homeowners that we have had to do this on has been very understanding in what we need to do to secure the scene. If it's something like an involved structure, they will just take the service off at the pole, it is very much safer that way for all involved, I was at a fire one day and was standing outside, and my buddy put his hand on me and got the crap shocked out of him, couldn't figure out why, till we noticed the little bit of water on the ground and it was being energized from the wire that fell off the house. If you really want to know what you should do, call your local electric company, and they are supposed to have a public safety person, and have them come out and put a class on for you. They are very informative. As someone stated before, We don't ask the electric company to put out fires, so we should not be doing the electric company's responsibility.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Landy01 View Post
    Here the decision to cut power varies on a case by case basis. All the Pumps carry link sticks (hotsticks) and we pull the fuse on the pole (no i'm not an electrician, if there is more than one fuse we pull them all). The electricity company will then attend and put any fuses back if necessary.

    Would never use on site power for our tools/lights, we have generators etc..
    I don't touch anything electrical. I get zapped very easy. Pulling the fuse off the poles would seem to be a bit dangerous I think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ElectricHoser View Post
    I don't really want to open the debate here lest the thread get hijacked (there are long and painful threads on this topic already), I just want to make sure you know....

    Pulling the meter is not safe, nor recommended. Note that the professionals (power company crews) don't cut off power this way, favoring ladders and bucket trucks to take it at the pole as the safer alternative. Also, with newer-style meters, dual feeds, or illegal modifications, pulling the meter may cut just part or none of the service.

    Just making sure you know..

    End hijack.
    Don't want to acknowledge a hijack, but wanted to clarify.

    Don't think I'm not aware of this. However, I'm stuck in a position of doing what I'm told and just relaying how we do it. We do use linesman gloves (test, certified annually) and all, and our typical wait on the power company is 30-45 mins. It's a risk/benefit thing, is it worth the risk of a guy with safety equipment and trained how to pull a meter for the safety of however many guys are inside working.

    I will point out we have had a couple of times where arsonists have set up traps for us by stripping an extension cord, plugging it in, and stringing the wires across the floor of a room.

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    Question Transformer fires:

    What is the policy/action when arriving at a electirc utility transformer fire...when ONLY the transformer is on fire ?
    "we learn from history...that we do not learn from history"

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    We just had refresher training on utility control last week. We pull residential meters (S-type?) and cut drip loops if necessary. We use tested gloves and hotsticks, as well as insulated nutdrivers for the A post meters. We do not mess with commercial.

    The Captain who teaches the class for us was trained by the local utility to do so. He also teaches it at the local fire academy.

    None of this means I like doing it, or believe it is an immediate necessity at most fires.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    I'm stuck in a position of doing what I'm told and just relaying how we do it.
    Ah, the Nuremberg defense...

    You are never "stuck in a position of doing what you are told." If you are told to do something that you know to be unsafe: DON'T DO IT! You are the first person on the fireground responsible for your own safety and the safety of your fellow firefighters -- don't let "doing what you are told" let you forget that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    We do use linesman gloves (test, certified annually)
    Annually? The utility companies I've ever worked with test theirs at least monthly. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by half-*****ed preparations for something that just plain shouldn't be done.

    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    It's a risk/benefit thing, is it worth the risk of a guy with safety equipment and trained how to pull a meter for the safety of however many guys are inside working.
    If it's that crucial to cut power and no utility professional is available to do it then the "risk/benefit thing" says those guys shouldn't be inside working anyway.
    Last edited by DeputyMarshal; 07-29-2007 at 08:15 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    Ah, the Nuremberg defense...

    You are never "stuck in a position of doing what you are told." If you are told to do something that you know to be unsafe: DON'T DO IT! You are the first person on the fireground responsible for your own safety and the safety of your fellow firefighters -- don't let "doing what you are told" let you forget that.

    First, I appreciate what you're trying to say. I don't like pulling meters or even believe we should be. I believe you may be an electrician or a linesman with extensive experience in this area, and feel strongly about the subject. However, if you are going to tell people not to do something their dept requires them to do, back it up with some official materials and references. Help us bring back some proof.

    In our case, the utility co. has trained a member of the dept to pull meters, and given him the authority to teach it not only to us, but the local fire academy. Therefore, the utility co. must believe that we are capable, if properly trained, to perform this function. The dept has made the decision to buy and maintain the equipment, as well as train the member to do this.

    Now, I'm supposed to go tell my Batt Chief that, "hey some guy on FH.com says this is too dangerous for firemen to do, and therefore I refuse to do it." You wanna reimburse me for my days off without pay now?

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    Quote Originally Posted by TFMBob View Post
    What is the policy/action when arriving at a electirc utility transformer fire...when ONLY the transformer is on fire ?
    Let it burn until advised by an on-scene power company employee that it is safe to extinguish. Extinguish any fires that start on non-electrical exposures, ensuring your water stays well away from energized equipment - keeping in mind which way is downhill and where your water will go. If it is a transformer on a pole, evacuate the area under the lines for at least two spans in each direction.

    Consider haz mat response, spilled transformer oil needs containment.

    It isn't unusual to just let burning transformers simply burn themselves out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnyv View Post
    First, I appreciate what you're trying to say. I don't like pulling meters or even believe we should be.

    .....

    In our case, the utility co. has trained a member of the dept to pull meters, and given him the authority to teach it not only to us, but the local fire academy. Therefore, the utility co. must believe that we are capable, if properly trained, to perform this function. The dept has made the decision to buy and maintain the equipment, as well as train the member to do this.
    You seem a little leery about this task, which is a healthy outlook. At least you guys seem to have something along the lines of formalized training and proper equipment, though the description you provided of your equipment testing is not in line with electrical industry norms. To me this makes your arrangement not quite as scary as say, the average ignorant (through no fault of their own) jake pulling meters all the time without regard to need or effectiveness, in civilian clothing, etc.

    Still, in your shoes, in your situation as described..... I still wouldn't do it. Stay safe.
    Last edited by ElectricHoser; 07-29-2007 at 09:43 PM.
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