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Pulling electric meters: Do you? I do!

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  • 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?
    Yes, any time crews go in.
    No, never.
    Only under certain conditions.
    Last edited by EastKyFF; 04-01-2004, 10:06 AM.
    “I 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.”
    ― Hunter S. Thompson

  • #2
    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.


    • #3
      Just know that pulling the meter on most newer structures does shut off the power. I was told this from a guy that works for Ohio Edison (AEP). He said all you are doing is shutting off the billing ability of the company. He's also a firefighter that I have know for years so I trust him. I do know for sure that any commercial building has to have the breakers pulled to shut them down....not the meter.
      AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

      IAFF Local 3900

      IACOJ-The Crusty Glow Worm

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      • #4
        Most of the meters are locked in our area. We call for the electric company to do that job. We do, pull any breakers inside before the service person arrives on scene.

        We use to pull meters, but you have to be very careful that the meter glass doesn't break on you. We don't have covers so pulling them without that would leave the hot legs exposed and some one poking around could get hurt very bad.

        Having underground electrical wires, you will still have a meter base and meter above ground.

        In other words, If you don't know what you are doing, LEAVE IT ALONE!!!!!

        Stay Safe & Well out there.....
        Last edited by CaptOldTimer; 03-30-2004, 02:18 PM.
        Stay Safe and Well Out There....

        Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers


        • #5
          I have also heard the same thing that pulling a meter on a newer structure or newly replaced meter will not kill the power.
          stay safe



          • #6
            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


            • #7
              Guess that explains why we use the 'mechanical axe'.


              • #8
                I think some of you are refering to the type meter that is used on commercial buildings in my neck of the woods. The meter takes a "sampling" of the power flowing. The main juice doesnt flow through the meter. Never saw one on a residential building. The best thing to do is set up an "unoffical" training drill with a local lineman.( Not an engineer), and do a walk through of all types of services.


                • #9
                  We don't pull meters. We contact the power company and let them handle it. There is at least one neighboring department that pulls them, but as was said before, it's not a guarantee that all power to the facility will be disconnected.

                  The power company can usually be there within 15 minutes or so if they don't have lines down all over.......
                  The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
                  We are all adults so there is no need to act like a child........


                  • #10
                    We dont deal with pulling meters or any other high voltage lines, thats why we have a municipal electric light dept. As for structure fires a working fire being announced automatically has the light dept on call member paged as well as additional PD officers to cover and handle traffic as necessary.
                    Member IACOJ & IACOJ EMS Bureau
                    New England FOOL
                    "LEATHER FOREVER"
                    As always these are strictly my own opinions and views


                    • #11
                      Scary. I've seen it done by the utility company many times. And I've heard stories about it being done by FF's on our department long ago. It's not something I'd let a crew under me do on a scene.

                      Linesman gloves? Find out how often utility companies are required to test their gloves for failure... it's an eye-opener.

                      Contact electrical professionals to handle electrical issues. It's not something we should mess with.
                      Last edited by Resq14; 03-30-2004, 05:22 PM.
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                      • #12
                        Sampling meter is the term I've heard used to describe a meter that can be removed without cutting power to the panel. I think it works inductively, but I'm not certain. In my area these are used exclusively in commercial and industrial settings, not residential. I am not prepared to bet my life on it though.

                        Our local utility companies respond quickly enough that we are never tempted to pull meters ourselves, though we have no specific SOP's prohibiting it.

                        a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for


                        • #13
                          We never, ever touch the meter. We leave pulling the power up to the utility company. It's better to let the experts deal with it.
                          "Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech." ~Printed in "The London Journal" around 1722

                          "Fish and guests stink after three days."
                          ~Benjamin Franklin

                          Proud Member of IACOJ


                          • #14
                            Never pull the meter! All the meter is a measurement device... much like a speedometer in car. The car can still be running without moving... and there can still be power to the structure even if the meter is pulled. If the meter is pulled incorrectly... serious injury and death could occur!

                            We have an agreement with the power company (Massachusetts Electric)...they don't fight our fires, we don't pull their meters.

                            If you need the power cut...either find the electrical panel and trip the main breaker or wait for the power company to kill the juice.
                            Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 03-30-2004, 11:28 PM.
                            ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
                            Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


                            • #15
                              Never, never, not ever!

                              Our city's electric dept. is quick to respond, 24/7, if needed. Let's face it, we have enough tasks to try to master without adding working with potential high voltage to the list. We just don't know enough about it to do it safely.

                              I don't buy the line that the chief is protecting his crew by pulling a meter before anyone enters a structure. Do you think that argument will satisfy his family, or OSHA, if he gets injured or killed in the process? If you're that worried about the electrical hazard, you simply don't enter the building. That's the choice you've made. It's a risk vs. benefit question. Am I going to let a room and contents job get out of control while I wait for someone to pull a meter that may not solve my problem anyway?

                              Shutting down breakers, when it's safe to do so, is your best option until a qualified person in on scene.

                              My two cents.
                              Lt. D. Gordon
                              Greendale Fire Department
                              Greendale, IN


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