Electric Panel Tips

We're gonna talk about electric utilities. This will be new information for rookies and a refresher for the guys with time, but it's good information. This is just basic info. Please reference your department SOP's, and use all common safety practices and equipment. Also, always call for help from your local power company.

This may sound ridiculous to some but a lot of good firefighters have pulled their hair out trying to find the breaker panel in a building they're unfamiliar with. We've seen panels in cabinets, behind mirrors, paintings and even seen book cases built around them. When tasked to turn the power off to a building most of us can't pull meters anymore, but the meter still plays a big role. Most of the time the meter will lead you to the panel. NEC rules say the panel "must be as close as practical" to the meter. Instead of a wild goose chase, just locate the meter outside and search the inside near that area. This is especially helpful with significant smoke conditions. Also, check to make sure the power is definitely off! There are plenty of people that steal power from others. They are bypassing their meters and panels to save money. Just because you turned their main disconnect off doesn't mean the power is off.

Remember when you respond to electrical issues or fire and need to turn off the power make sure you turn off just the main disconnect, not all the breakers. The electrician/maintenance will need to know whether the breaker tripped properly. Recently we've seen firefighters turn off all the breakers, this is counterproductive.

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