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.