Pulling Meters


Steve Urban from Ft. Worth (TX) Truck 14 sent in these photos of a residental meter base. Like with so many other things we have pointed out of the site, they just don’t make’em like they used to. In this particular situation this residential meter functions more like a commercial meter. If you look close you can see that the buss bar is still connected when the meter is pulled. The larger size of the base should be an indication that this style set-up is in use and should be suspected on large residential structures.

Obviously this is important is if anyone is “pulling the meter” as their method of securing utilities. Pulling the meter may not be your particular method, but it’s a method still used by many people. Just keep in mind that when faced with this set-up, removing the meter does not disrupt the power to the structure.

50 comments

50 Comments so far

  1. L13 February 14th, 2009 4:31 pm

    really not a good idea for fire personnel to be pulling meters! but thanks for the safety update.

  2. jackson 5 February 14th, 2009 5:31 pm

    just pop open the cover and quickly inspect the breakers for any that are tripped, for investigation purposes, then flip them all to off. Problem solved. No need to pull a meter and risk the shock factor.

  3. thehousewatch February 14th, 2009 7:06 pm

    Never pull a meter. No power company that I am aware of will recommend this. Most meters also have a fail-safe bridge to prevent interruption of power if the meter is ‘pulled.’It is better to kill the power from the inside of the fire building (basement). As an aside, take a look at what’s coming out of the meter/service drop; or what’s NOT coming off the service drop. People are stealing/bypassing power with ingenious methods these days and you may not detect it when the outside (rear) vent firefighter is taking a look around the back. Call the local power company and they will send you tons of photos of illegal hook ups. Particularly at vacants…

  4. Squad 1 February 14th, 2009 10:49 pm

    They dont fight my fires, I dont touch there wires…..

    We recently stoped pulling meters unless a emergency of some kind deemed by the IC. My department pulled many throught the years however without incident. I do feel that its better to leave the meter pulling to the power company. just remember never, and always are terms we shouldnt use in the fire service.

  5. engine124 February 15th, 2009 12:27 am

    the meter is a ct meter and will not disconnect with the meter pulled. NFPA 70 is the national electric code. it now requires a disconnect outside and beside the meter to make it safer but does not retrofit the old buildings. get with your local electrician and he can shed alot on the issue. i am a liscened electriction and they still suprise me when i am not on a fire call and i agree always and never shouldn’t be used it locks out the ability to offer the ultimate sacrifice of ones self. see it is dangerous both ways. stay committed and may God bless.

  6. 119 FF 84 February 15th, 2009 2:15 am

    how would shutting all of the breakers off help during an investegation? it would ruin the evidence.

    i was always taught to kill the mains, whether it was a fuse panel (we still have some in the mutual aid sections of town) or circuit breakers. that way the marshall can see what was tripped. or, what was electrified or not. keep safe guys.

  7. Jon February 15th, 2009 11:54 am

    I am assuming the reason for the continuation of electron flow is to maintain the power in the event that the meter needs to be replaced during operation/business hours?

    I read about the pulling meters issue, but no one has ever really explained the reason why it is dangerous. Is it due to the load placed on the meter could cause the juice to jump through you as a ground when removing it?

    Be Safe!

  8. martinj1132 February 15th, 2009 12:55 pm

    correct me if i am wrong, but the safety issue with pulling the meters lie with the amount of voltage/amperage going through the meter and service line to the residence.

    everyone has at one time or another gotten a little juice that raised the hair on their arm… and that is usually stepped down inside appliances or near wall outlets. imagine what it would feel like if you got a surge from a meter box! our turnout gear and tools are not rated for electrical work and tend to be either wet or contaminated with things that might conduct electricity. not a chance i want to take.

    hope that helped answer your question jon.

    stay safe!

  9. pfd27 February 15th, 2009 12:59 pm

    I serve a small VT community and have a great report with the local power co (actually have their freq. in my mobile). We don’t pull meters.

    We have had a number of incidents where the service was struck by falling limbs and the neutral was charged. In this case, pulling the meter wouldn’t have helped and to the uninformed, would have given a false sense of security. I can, and have, requested they kill a block on their grid in these circumstances.

  10. DMAN72 February 15th, 2009 1:52 pm

    Holy S@#t!!!! Is this a unanymous VES discussion?? This has to be a first! By the way, I also agree, don’t touch meters, you will get a boo-boo.

  11. brickcity1306 February 15th, 2009 8:58 pm

    Ahhhh bullshit,, have the probie pull the meter !!! If he lives he is a full member, if he gets a bite he learns a lesson and it’s good for a month of ball busting!!! If he dies,,, deny any knowledge of his actions.. On a serious note, I had the pleasure of watching a real “pro” pull one. He had no clue what he was doing and pushed it down instead of straight out, the arc that jumped blinded the entire crew for a good twenty min, it was kind of like an arc welder on steroids. I have never touched one for this reason, we have two options:
    1) The electric co cuts service at the pole (problem is this is about forty min into the incident).
    2) Throw the main breaker and never EVER touch the individual breakers.

    I know of departments that take a picture first I also know guys that bring a sharpie and note on the box which ones are tripped.

  12. latson3146 February 15th, 2009 9:42 pm

    I wish I could email this to my department. We still pull em!!!!! We need to get out of the 1980’s. But the response you get is, “that’s the way weve always done it” Anyone know what I mean????????

  13. joe February 15th, 2009 9:48 pm

    I agree!!!!

  14. Drew Smith February 16th, 2009 1:35 am

    For those that pull meters, the unusual size of this meter enclosure should be a sign that something is atypical and extreme caution used before proceeding/ In anything we do unusual circumstances should cause us to SLOW DOWN. I know some will say everything we do is different and no two fires are alike. I agree with much of that except that if that were true on face value then our general actions could not be reproduced successfully at most fires.

    We used to pull meters. This practice was discontinued due to the local electric utility (I’m in the Chicago metro area) taking a different position than they had for 10+ years. When I first learned to pull a meter it was at the utility’s lineman training center. We were given specific instructions followed by much practice. General points included: Look away, smack the top edge so the meter’s top blades pull out versus pulling the meter, do not stand in front of the meter, wear a face shield and full PPE and always verify the circuit was open using a test meter which we demonstrated proficiency using. We were told NEVER pull a meter other than at a residence and given reasons why. The electric utility issued our department lineman’s gloves which were tested every six months, a hot stick, a test meter and meter covers. They did this in the early to mid 1990s for several hundred FDs in the metro Chicago area. Then last year stopped the program without explanation but probably due to liability. However, I am not aware of any department that had a near-miss in the 10+ years the program was in operation.

    Regarding how much current passes through a meter: At a residence what comes off the pole or from the underground is the same as what comes out of the outlets. Residences do not use transformers inside (at least not in the Chicago area). However, there is no circuit breaker or fuse pre-panel so a short may keep things energized indefinitely.

    pfd27 makes a good point about limbs striking the wires and energizing the neutral. This can also make the cable and phone wires live. Also, during storms the hand homeowner may rig up a generator and backfeed his service unknowingly making that wire from the house but not hooked to the pole live.

    Many years ago I went to a car versus child crash. The toddler was riding his bike on the side walk and a woman learning to drive jumped the curb, it him and pinned him against a pad mounted transformer in the front yard of a house. Bystanders had him free on our arrival and we treated and transported him. About an hour later we had a reported house fire next door to this call. On arrival we found a basement full of smoke and tracked it down to a pile of clothes in the laundry room. The fire had been started by heat from the residence’s electrical service grounding to the water service where it entered the home. Seems that when the car hit the transformer it pulled the distribution wires coming into the transformer and they then contacted the copper water line coming into the house, shorted and then heated the copper water line. It was nearly glowing like a branding iron when we pulled the clothes off it. Good thing we figured out what was what before anyone touched it.

  15. firefighter4013 February 16th, 2009 12:37 pm

    Just get the chains off the truck and throw them up and across the power lines. You know to short out the power lines. And shut down the power to every house on that grid. And to make every firefighter on scene def and blind.

    Seriously, an elderly fire chief from a neighboring CAREER department did this, after the electric company failed to show up. He got in a little trouble. I guess that’s how they did it back in the 1940’s.

  16. Scott February 16th, 2009 3:41 pm

    I have to say anyone who has the balls to pull a meter now a days should kneel down and kiss the ground each and every time he or she does it. Power companies have warned us for many years now that we should never bother with their power feeds due to the potential of a dramatic failure. There have been many cases reported of firefighters who have pulled meters only to be met with a sudden blast from the meter box causing the glass metering device to shatter and explode in the face of the puller. The safe bet is to control the power in the main panel by sutting off the main breaker and not disturbing any tripped breakers. This is a vital move given the fire investigator wil need to photo this to prove in a court of law his or her findings as to how the power was prior to and after the fire. Now the question is going to fly that we can not get to the main panel quickly. Agreed, however playing the odds and pulling the meter rather than be careful to not come in contact with a power sounce is a game I would rather play knowing I have control.

    Good luck guys.

  17. Peter February 16th, 2009 5:44 pm

    What about the instance of split panels with no main breaker? Obviously you can shut the power off in a certain number of throws (I forget what exactly NEC says) but for those instances, it would be good to have a sharpie on hand to mark which breakers were tripped.

  18. Scott February 16th, 2009 7:51 pm

    Not many Residential homes are set with Split panels without the ability to shut down the main service. If this has occured then someone has done this against code or has done something wrong or does more in a residential that would classify it as something else. If we begin to talk about commercial properties or multi-level high life occuupancies we then get into more than just pulling a meter. The key here is allowing a safe barrier and erroring on the side of caution to not put yourself in the position to have to explain why you did something such as closing breakers that were tripped by placing a mark next to it. Best practices show proving what you did and why is harder than leaving it alone. In a perfect world we would have the law on our side and not have to prove what we did was for the best.

  19. 119 FF 84 February 17th, 2009 12:22 am

    i just did a walkthrough of an old church. woah. haha. you oughta see the pannels in that place. fuses in 3 or 4 locations, a 50 amp switch by itself that noone knows what it belongs to, pannels behind heat pumps the size of large safes… what a mess.

  20. Tuna February 17th, 2009 5:24 pm

    My father is a MFRI instructor and just retired from the power company after 35 years of service. Got his MFRI for in house training at the power company. When I started in the fire service he told me “never pull meters. You could die.” His advice has gotten me through 36 years of life so far. I think I’ll follow it here.

  21. stone February 17th, 2009 6:10 pm

    We had a fire a while back, a local DC “pulled the meter”. We were on the roof cutting a hole and heard a loud buzz-pop. Long story short, DC was on the ground throwing an irregular heart rythymn amidst a near death experience. The power guy told us that he was lucky to be alive! I don’t do power. period. It’s too risky in a risk vs benefit light

  22. jack February 17th, 2009 8:25 pm

    i dont do their wires, they dont do my fires

  23. TxFF February 18th, 2009 2:05 am

    I guess my department is the only one still in the old days… our Rescue Co pulls meters at every fire. I’m not normally a rescue guy but I’ve pulled a couple myself and never had any trouble (knock on wood).

  24. dano3rescue February 18th, 2009 2:42 pm

    We pull the meter every time here in Memphis,the outside team on the truck is responsible for that. The only ones we don’t pull are continuous feed meters which are normally found only on commercial buildings. As Mr Urban points out you can also find them on single family residences which I was unaware of.

    Lt. Dan Harris
    Memphis Fire Dept.
    Rescue Co.3

  25. Dave February 20th, 2009 12:35 pm

    …Or home-grown electricians who change their fuse box for circuit breakers and swap the black and white wires- we’ve seen that a few times. The whole house stays charged even with the breakers off.
    Treat any wire like it’s hot.

  26. FFCrockett February 20th, 2009 7:50 pm

    Speaking of “home-grown” the poor economy (espescially housing) here in Southwset FL has spawned many abandoned, forclosed, or otherwise vacant houses. Several of these properties have become homes to marijana grow houses with ALL KINDS of creative electrical engineering tactics. Just Google Grow House Electical scematics.

    No touchey!!!

  27. Crum February 22nd, 2009 6:50 pm

    I work for the power company. Thats a 4S meter, which like stated before is CT’d. Meaning that the meter is simply taking a sampling of current going through the circuit. This is because they don’t make meters that handle over 400 amps. Pulling that meter will not kill power to the service. Some will, some won’t. I won’t touch a meter without secondary rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a meter puller. I recommend that you don’t either. Arc flashes are nothing to mess with, and if you don’t know what you’re looking at, and are trained to do it, I wouldn’t touch it.

  28. ljenk1 February 23rd, 2009 10:16 pm

    Our department stopped pulling them years ago. Don’t we subject ourselves to enough hazards? This is a dangerous practice that no fire department should partake in. I have been on the job for 35 years and work in a busy department. I pulled my share of meters and was nervous each time I did it. The electric meter is only a measuring device and not a switch. It may short out at the base and cause burns, eye damage, or even explode. A certified representative from the power company should only do this procedure. The pulling of electric meters by the fire department should be discontinued due to the potential shock hazard.

  29. Meter Puller February 27th, 2009 3:19 pm

    Who knows of someone who was actually hurt or killed by pulling a meter? No secondhand information please.

  30. Allison March 1st, 2009 9:27 am

    I work for an electric utility in the northeast and am a volunteer FF as well. I can assure you that pulling meters is a great risk that I cannot condone. I can show you pictures of both utility workers and FF’s that have been injured pulling meters. In fact, if you read this string, you will see somebody indicate a DC pulling and winding up with irregular heart beats. Too many issues with meters from customer sides like backfeeds, illegal connections, to panel modifications.

    Outside, underground feeds have tendencies to settle causing line side jaws of meter box to sag. This alone causes issues within the box that makes it dangerous! Overhead services, while we can see them, offer other issues such as vegetation problems.

    I personally have witnessed arcs from pulling meters that have burned people – and these people do it everyday, they’re trained! How often do FF’s do this? When was last time they were trained?

    Being in the fire service for nearly 30 years, I too was trained to pull meters – and have pulled some. However, I will no longer pull a meter while wearing fire gear – too dangerous for me.

  31. DMAN72 March 1st, 2009 12:01 pm

    Hey Meter Puller,
    Do you like movies? Well I watch a lot of movies and if I can quote John Bender from “The Breakfast Club”…..
    “I don’t know any lepers either, but Im not gonna run out and join one their f@#king clubs.” Point being it only takes once.

  32. Tony CFD L15 March 2nd, 2009 6:37 pm

    We don’t pull meters, some hit main breaker but that does’nt garantee the power is off. I prefer to cut the drip loops with hot sticks.

  33. Meter Puller March 5th, 2009 8:49 pm

    So I guess no one actually knows anyone hurt or killed by pulling a meter? maybe we could ask the aliens at Area 51 or Bigfoot. I’ve “heard” they exist too.

  34. Nate999 March 5th, 2009 10:24 pm

    Meter puller…look three posts above yours. This is coming from someone who works for the UTILITY company. Along the lines of what DMAN said…”If I wanted to get a look at a good T-bone I could stick my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.”

  35. Nate999 March 6th, 2009 12:48 pm

    Or right after your first post.

  36. DMAN72 March 6th, 2009 2:07 pm

    METER PULLER,
    I WILL ADMIT THAT I DO NOT KNOW ANYONE THAT HAS BEEN INJURED OR KILLED PULLING A METER. BUT THE POINT IS THAT IS CCCCCCCCCCAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNN HAPPEN. I HAVENT HAD TIME TO GO THROUGH THE 80,000 YEARLY INJURY REPORTS FROM THE USFA, BUT I’LL BET I COULD FIND ONE. LETS SEND THIS IN TO MYTHBUSTERS, MAYBE THEY CAN GET AN ANSWER.

  37. fireguyhfd March 6th, 2009 2:13 pm

    Being in the fire service for 13 years, I have seen and heard every side of the meter pulling conundrum, to pull or not to pull, that is the question. No one has mentioned here that main breakers leak. No one checks breakers for leakage in their own homes, especially older panels. So trust in the the main breaker protecting you is a false sense of security. We still pull meters and have a meter pulling device to do so safely and securely. Sure there is a risk for lugs to rust away and come out with the meter. Coming from someone that had been bitten during overhaul with a “main breaker shutoff”, Pull um’ if you have to.

  38. Nate999 March 6th, 2009 5:24 pm

    What about the risk of being “bitten” by pulling the meter?! With all the different setups (the reason for this post) and the “weekend electricians” who saw it on the DIY channel, chancing the meter is just too risky to be done by someone other than a trained professional with the right equipment (i.e., the utility co.)…they don’t come to our fires with a dust mask and a garden hose, so why should we play the odds with their meters? I say kill the main, and watch where you stick your hook, especially during overhaul. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, however, I’ll go with the electricians and power co. people I work with. Good luck playing the odds.

  39. FrankTheTank501 March 7th, 2009 4:49 am

    Was on a department for 14 years and on the truck for 8 of the 14 years, not saying its right or wrong, but we pulled meters up until 2005, cannot tell you how many fires between that town and our auto aid partners we responded to in those 14 years I was there, 0 injuries, 0 close calls. Training and tools go a long way in this business. Would I reccommend this today, no, but to say it is not safe, I would need some evidence. How many people have been killed by cars and people operating cars? No one has said we need to stop producing cars, they kill people. Have people been killed or injured pulling meters, I’m sure and firefighters have been killed and injured by hose lines.

  40. MeterPuller March 8th, 2009 6:32 pm

    Has anyone here, besides Frank, ever been to a real fire?

  41. Nate999 March 8th, 2009 7:28 pm

    Nope, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

  42. DMAN72 March 8th, 2009 9:46 pm

    MeterPuller,
    Ok. You’re right! You are the rightest anyone has ever been in the history of being right. If they were giving out an award for being right, you would be the gold medal winner of rightness. When you look up right in the dictionary, your picture is there. Your point is the right that all other rights will be compared to until the end of time! I am going to tell everyone I know about this, so they too will know how right you are. I will refer to this in every class I teach. You’re Mr. Right. Soon to be knighted as Sir Righty Rightington. Is the e-F#$king-nough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Rich4334 March 10th, 2009 11:06 pm

    Having served on a volunteer fire dept for over 25 years and working at a east coast power company for the last 20 years I recommend leaving the job of disconnecting power to a structure to someone that is properly trained and has been issued the necessary safety protective equipment(eye protection/face shield, helmet, voltage rated rubber gloves, and if available -meter pulling device.. There are OSHA requirements for training and equipment for electrical workers -any work done on meters (installing or removal) falls under the requirements…Fire fighters who engage in the practice of removing energized meters would fall under this ruling -YOU NEED PROPER TRAINING AND SAFETY EQUIPMENT -end of story in OHSA’s eyes if something were to go wrong –we all know the drill. In my years of working at the utility company I’ve pulled many meters and seen my share of bad things happen to myself and coworkers while doing so, thank god for the training and proper Equipment.

    … I’ve encountered or know of the following problems -rusted meter pans, illegal jumpers, energized service mast pipe come off the house when meter pulled, loose wires in the pan, old insulation on wires, Metal back meters, back feeds, open wire secondary wires slapping together because of the force needed to removed a meter from a rusted socket, and the worst case- a house fire caused by primary voltage (7200VAC) fed in to a home when primary wire and secondary service wire crossed when pole came down during a bad accident. The transformer and circuit fusing didn’t blow- an alert coworker caught this problem before some one pulled the meter.
    Some of these issues caused one hell of a flash and some flying glass. In a few cases the feed to the meters were unable to be isolated or unloaded in a timely manner so they were pulled “Hot” —but because of proper training and PPE we all went home alive without injuries and only the prompt need to change underwear. And don’t forget the critters that hide in the meter pans- mice/birds/bats/and even came across a black widow spiders one time…Commercial meters set ups 208Vac-477Vac ===STAY AWAY
    Just because you slept in a Holiday Inn once and your work truck has red light on — you shouldn’t play with electric -its BAD unpredictable stuff that kills –

    Just my 2cents-
    Stay safe Brothers

  44. DaGonz March 18th, 2009 9:39 pm

    An electric meter is like the speedometer in a car. It measures the amount of electricity being used.

    You can drive your car when the speedometer isn’t working… and if you go too fast, you’ll get a ticket.

    There is still power to the structure even with the meter pulled… and if someone pulls the meter the wrong way… you’ll still get a ticket.. only this one is to the Pearly Gates….

  45. OneMoreMike April 14th, 2009 1:42 pm

    As a lineman and trainer I can tell you that you do not want to be the guy pulling the meter. Yes, I have photos of severely injured people who had an incident while pulling meters. Usually, they are flash incidents that would test your bunker gear. The biggest problem is (as stated earlier) there is no protective device that will turn off the energy if something goes wrong. Our trades ask us to do things most people would cringe at the thought of. Our trades also spend a great deal of time and effort to give us a good education. Unfortunately we occasionally see what happens when we venture outside the limits of our education.

  46. electrician June 4th, 2009 12:00 am

    i have pulled many meters and replaced them. But what about these new electronic
    meters? what is the procedure in pulling this new style—anyone?

  47. Mike FF September 10th, 2009 10:26 pm

    Good evening folks,
    Alot of interesting comments here loved alot of them. I am a 29 year veteran of Power co in Ga. I am also a volunteer ff in Ga. Pulling are a dangerous way to de-energize a house, if possible try to disconnect breakers in house, even the ones without the main,turn off all the breakers should cut off all the power. CT meters or Current transformer metering is for heavy load like people who have large homes with over 600 amps or more of load. all that meter reads is current no load there. but it can flash too. On our meters and my understanding most meters in the US you can read on the meter where it say CL100,CLl50 or CL200 or CL 320, 3 digit number can be pulled and will cut off power, CT metering have a CL10,20,50 2 numbered class cannot be pulled is on ct meter. The electronic meter are same, but they can be read automatically and some can be cut off or on by remote, need to check with the company in your area.
    The danger is pulling a meter with a short can and will blow up in your face, at the temp of 1000- 3500 degrees depend on the fault current.I hope this helps some of you with the questions , I will keep reading and hopefully help, be safe

  48. brickcity1306 September 10th, 2009 11:29 pm

    Thanks Mike and thank you for what you do, a fire fighter and a guy that plays with electricity?? I can only assume you have had a death wish for a long long time..

  49. stephen van buskirk September 30th, 2012 7:38 pm

    I’m no sure that there’s an answer to this question. I have seen panels in odd places in older homes. What if it’s not immediately obvious where it is, or it’s in an inconvenient location, like the room that’s on fire. If the utility company’s not immediately available, common in some rural areas, then what? I wouldn’t like to pull a meter, but never seems a little unrealistic in the real world.

  50. ????????????????? February 12th, 2017 3:36 pm

    RE:Pulling Meters | VentEnterSearch.com ????? Wil-Rich ????????

Leave a reply