National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Controlling Utilities

Controlling utilities is a basic firefighter safety action and critical incident control function. Shutting off electric and gas should not be taken lightly or left to chance. For example, this week’s experience shows that the unexpected happens when you least expect it.

“We were responding to a trailer fire in a rural part of the county…Upon arrival on the scene, we had a fully involved trailer fire. Two other stations were toned for water and manpower. The power and gas were still on to the structure. The ETA for the Electric Company was over an hour. Because of the ETA, I went to the meter box and opened it to pull the meter. I have seen meters pulled numerous times. When I reached to grab the meter to pull it out, my fire gloves were wet and they made a connection with the prongs on back of meter. All I saw was a big spark of blue…”

Policies on “pulling the meter” need to be visited frequently and reviewed with the local utility company. A generation ago fire departments routinely carried linesman’s gloves and pulled meters as a matter of routine. A recent review of policies across the country finds that many fire departments leave “pulling the meter” to the local utility company. In addition, many utility companies recommend leaving the meter to the utility company due to changes in meter configuration and function. Once you have read the entire report, consider the following:

1. Survey your first due area. How many different meter configurations are out there?
2. If your department allows meters to be pulled, how old is the written policy and when was the last time it was reviewed?
3. Is your local utility company aware of your department’s policy on pulling electric meters?
4. If you run mutual aid, does your practice of controlling utilities match the practices of your surrounding departments?
5. What other options are available for controlling power at a structure fire?

Has a near- miss occurred while you were controlling utilities? Increase the knowledge base of the fire and emergency service by submitting your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com today.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Heavy Smoke

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The National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System achieved another milestone in 2009. One thousan reports were submitted and posted in 2009. This would not have happened without all of your support and use of the system.

Emphasis on rapidly changing fire conditions and the science behind why conditions change in an instant are gaining more prominence. A portion of the event narrative reads:

“Our department was dispatched to a structure fire reported by police who were initially dispatched to a burglar alarm. First companies arrived to find a two story, wood frame multi-use structure with moderate smoke issuing from the structure. After forcing entry, the engine company (three person hose team) entered with an inch and three-quarter attack line and a TIC. The crew reported high heat conditions and indicated that the TIC screen was red…”

“Outside, the IC and ladder company crew observed smoke conditions rapidly changing from laminar light brown smoke to a turbulent black smoke pushing from the entry doorway. At this time, IC attempted to contact the initial engine company without success…”

“Back inside, the rescue crew reached the engine company at the rear wall… Some confusion occurred when personnel mingled together and at some point, the rescue crew lost contact with each other. The engine captain also lost track of one of his two rookie firefighters. One of the rescue members retreated outside and reported he had lost his partner. At the same time, the engine captain attempted to radio IC that he too had lost a member of his crew and to report the condition encountered inside…”

Watching for changing conditions and remaining alert for the signs while reacting in sufficient time to prevent injury or death are critical functions for today’s fire officer. Once you have read the entire report, answer the following:

1. Do you believe “rapidly changing fire conditions” deserves the attention it is receiving?
2. Who serves as the “lookout” to monitor fire conditions on your fireground?
3. Can one person be expected to manage all aspects of fire command and control?
4. What actions can you take in low to zero visibility atmosphere to get a look at smoke conditions? (Hint: involves a handlight held close to your facepiece).
5. How easy can you operate your radio in low visibility, high heat atmospheres?

Have you experienced a near-miss due to rapidly changing fire conditions? Add one more gift to your holiday giving by submitting your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com today.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.