Avoiding electrocution hazards
By Vincent Dunn
Generally at a structure fire, electric power should remain on for as long as safety permits. Electricity provides power for lights, which assists
search and rescue operations. It keeps fire pumps running for fire extinguishment and elevators operated by firefighters for evacuation. However, there are certain times during a fire or emergency operation when electric power should be immediately removed to protect firefighters and trapped victims.
1. Electricity should be cut off before overhaul starts. Normal current in a residential building can kill firefighters. During overhaul, walls, ceilings and
floors are sometimes broken open in order to search for hidden fire. Metal tools can come in contact with electric wires behind these walls and
ceilings. Firefighters standing on a wet floor in a burned out room can get a metal tool entangled in a live wire. This can cause the firefighter to be
electrocuted or severely shocked.
2. When electricity is the source of heat causing the fire, power must be immediately cut off. Also, if a victim is being electrocuted, power must be
removed from the wire or appliance threatening the trapped person. To handle this type of fire or emergency, firefighters must be trained to safely
shut off electricity to residential buildings. Utility companies cannot respond quickly enough to do the job.
3. Explosions and structural collapse rip open walls, ceilings and floors of a structure. Live electric wires are threaded throughout the rubble, hanging
dangerously in midair and laying around the ground. A collapse search and rescue plan must be put into action. One of the most important parts of the first step of the collapse rescue plan is to shut off all the utilities such as water and electricity.
- Vincent Dunn is a retired FDNY Deputy Chief. For more tactical advice and tips, go to Vincentdunn.com. For lecture information, call 1-800-231-3388.
Join the discussion
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FireRescue1.com or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
FireRescue1 top 5
- Official: FDNY firefighter may have been jolted from bucket
- Man runs back into burning building for 2 cans of beer
- NJ fire dept.'s apparatus fleet 'in dire need of replacing'
- Video: Volunteer firefighter-EMT rescues girl who fell out of bus
- More than 200 firefighters battle massive 5-alarm building blaze