Electrical Panel Box Drill by: Captain Jeff Schwering

At some point we have all been asked or will be asked to cut the electric , when it is necessary, from anything from a structure fire to water endangering electric, just to name a few. When was the last time you thought of how you were going to shut that panel down correctly? The power companies frown on pulling meters or cutting loops and this may not completely accomplish this task, depending on many factors, feel free to add your own.
 
Correctly shutting a panel box down is really easy, by throwing the main breaker, right? Wrong! Correctly shutting this panel down is easy, but throwing the main breaker is not the answer, if you want to be sure an avoid an arc.
 
When shutting a panel box down, whether breakers or fuses, goes as follows: Turn off all of the individual breakers, or take out the fuses, then trip the main breaker or pull the main fuses. Practice this in gloves, not as easy as it sounds.
 
To restore power, do this drill in reverse order, however, I’m not sure how many of us are tasked with the restoration of power, doesn’t happen in the Midwest.
 
 
Stay Safe and Train to Survive!
 
Engine Captain Missouri

10 Comments

  • blancety says:

    Something to think about, especially on those water calls is what and where you are standing when you do it?

    Standing in 6 inches of water while in the panal is never a good idea. We often will have the Power Company pull the meter in these cases.

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    2 good points. I’ll send some photos for support, and other things you may come across. You said it right Cpt. restoration of power is NOT something to be taken lightly. You have no idea what is actually going to be re-energized especially if any overhaul was done.

  • HallwaySledge says:

    Another thought Jeff. If you are cutting the power to lessen ignition points at the scene of a natural gas leak or other type of flammable gas leak, use your meters to check the panel as well as the piping feeding the wires to the panel, if accessible.

    A number of years ago my dept. was called to a gas leak in a residential neighborhood caused by underground directional boring. The company doing the work had hit the line and continued to bore “without knowledge”, or so they said. We were called for the smell of gas at a large chain drug store located about a block away an hour or so later. Meters were brought in an indicated levels well below the LEL. It was about this time another company found the directional boring operation and had much higher levels coming out of the bore hole. The store was evacuated and the local gas company called to respond. Upon their arrival after they used their own meters and “expertise” the gas company said it was ok and advisable to shut off the power to the drug store to lessen ignition points. Members used our meters again and noted levels well below the LEL. At this point the power was cut and a very large explosion occurred, with two of our members at the panel in the store. Both members were able to self-evacute. They suffered NLT injuries and burns but were very lucky. Follow-up investigation found that the gas had travelled under ground and found its way into the piping carrying the electric feed and then up into the panel. When the breakers were tripped it caused the explosion.

    Until that point no one in our department had ever thought to check in the meter or supply piping on such calls. It woke us all up. I would highly advise anyone else in a similar circumstance to check those locations prior to tripping the breakers.

    Stay safe,
    Chris

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Good thought Chris, I’ve heard of this happening, but not heard of the boom until your incident. Looks like I have more training for the next rotation! Thanks Brother!

  • Lt. 6 Truck says:

    One thing I did not see in the post or comments is remembering how you found the panel. Was the breaker tripped, where was the blown fuse. This is very important information for the investigator. While our safety is the top priority and securing the power is a critical task, we must do our best to preserve important information on cause and origin of the fire.

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Very good point Lt, thanks for pointing that out. My bad as the saying nowadays goes. I’m an investigator, also, I get ahead of myself. I look at these things automatically, but the new guys or gals, won’t unless we teach them.THANKS BRO!

    Jeff

  • Wingert229 says:

    We found out recently that you can’t kill the power to a commercial structure by pulling the meter. Electricity is routed around the meter and meter is only used to record how much power is used. Your local electrical company is a good source for meter and electricity training. We have KCP&L in our area and they give a great presentation.

  • blancety says:

    Wingert’s point is valid on all panels.

    The panel remains energized even with the main tripped. Power is still routed from the meter to the panel, throwing the main is just a big whole house light switch. Members should use care around the panel.

    If the meter is pulled, then there is still electricity to the meter socket. Again, pulling the meter just breaks the circut.

    When our power company kills the power, they disconnect the service drop at the street. 1) it is easier for them if we are active engaged. 2) It eliminates any possibilty of there being power to the structure.

    I am not sure how power can be routed around the meter and the meter will still record usage. From what I understand about electricity that would be like getting water from a discharge without the pressue gauge registering. Certainly something to think about though…..

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    The power company is always the positive way of making sure the electric is shut off, we used to cut the drip loops, but the electric company had an issue with that. Not to mention, trying to train the newer folks on how to do it properly. I too am interest in how the power is routed around the meter.

  • Interesting, that’s why the two FF’s we have , that work for our Power company are the ones i use the most often to secure the power

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