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#123971 - 06/23/06 04:11 AM POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
electure Offline


Registered: 12/24/00
Posts: 4226
Loc: Fullerton, CA USA
from e57 (Mark Heller)

Didn’t have time to take more photos of the smoke later billowing out the back of the building….

So here’s the story,
POCO Sub-contractor is getting ready to underground this area and is moving transformers to temporary pole, then underground…. Over the few days before this they have been working hot to get rid of the pole beyond the fire truck.

(I’m working in the restaurant where picture is taken from) While working over this period, I often go by and ask when the power is going to drop, because that’s the end of my rough for that time and off to other jobs, so I have gotten to know this crew briefly by name….
This day while doing their swap over of the poles they are moving the service drop across the street, I walked by at lunch and chatted…. About 2 o’clock I heard the roar of fire engines, the first to arrive was the Super whose truck is there on the corner. He jumped out and started yelling at the line crew on the pole. “Get the &^%$ of that pole, you just set the building on fire! I gotta get a ladder in here now!” (At this point there was no smoke yet, except for me who decided this would be a good time for a break and took this picture with my crappy phone) They left one guy on the pole to cut all the stuff they just did, and dropped the bucket as the ladder truck started going up. And sent up gaffs to him in a tool bucket. He was trying to make it though the tree when I took the picture.

I went back to work…. The woman who called, who was trapped in a back room on third floor got out safely, and was the only person at home at the time in that 3-unit. When I was leaving at 4PM the line crew was still there answering questions with the fire dept. One was standing around, so I asked…. Apparently they swapped all the drops while the tranny was dead, Hot neutral reversed on the one building with the ladder on the roof. It set fire to the service, and various things around the building, notably the stairwell. They kept working for about a half an hour after the tranny went back on, not knowing the building next to them was on fire, or that someone was trapped inside until the fire dept showed up…. (They were about to go home) When fire dept vented the roof, you could tell it was NOT a small fire…
BTW this same fire crew was at the 4 alarm, 6 hour ordeal downtown earlier in the day that took out the Bank of America Data Center, very rough day for them.

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#123972 - 06/23/06 07:07 AM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
mahlere Offline

Registered: 11/17/05
Posts: 514
Loc: New Jersey
Hey, in order to be lowest bidder, you can't worry about little things like doing it right

Armageddon was not the best movie in the world, however, it did have one of the greatest little monologues in the world.

"You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?"

#123973 - 06/23/06 10:23 AM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
RSmike Offline

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 130
Loc: Holland, MI USA
.....and this is why insurance companies and lawyers exist.

The important thing was no one was hurt.


#123974 - 06/23/06 11:18 AM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5305
Loc: Blue Collar Country
The most recent issue of EC&M has a case study of an electrician who received a serious shock form just this error... a PoCo sub got his wires mixed up!

In that instance, what the PoCo saved in pay and benefits (compared to hiring their own guys) was more than cancelled out by the $$$$ awarded the victim!

#123975 - 06/23/06 02:04 PM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
circuit man Offline

Registered: 11/05/01
Posts: 287
Loc: saluda,s.c.
ok,just how stupid can ya get? triplex has a bare neutral,& if i rember correctly underground has a yellow stripe on the neural.i guess another darwin award is ready to be handed out. just lucky no one was injured.

#123976 - 06/23/06 02:18 PM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
Dnkldorf Offline

Registered: 12/12/04
Posts: 1091
Loc: nowhere usa
I don't think this has anything to do with being the lowest bidder. It might be something as simple as being too comfortable doing the same task over and over, and just overlooking the obvious...

Who hasn't made a mistake by being too comfortable?

#123977 - 06/23/06 07:47 PM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
Scott35 Offline

Broom Pusher and

Registered: 10/19/00
Posts: 2724
Loc: Anaheim, CA. USA


BTW this same fire crew was at the 4 alarm, 6 hour ordeal downtown earlier in the day that took out the Bank of America Data Center, very rough day for them.

I have been to that B of A Campus before (or at least one in the Downtown S.F. area, which would deal with Northern California stuff!).

Bringing down that EDC - or any Campus brought down -
would result in quite a few nasty grams being sent out, for sure!!!

They have (finally) integrated UPS equipment for the various Server equipment, but Lighting, General Purpose Power Circuits and "Non-Critical" HVAC equipment (anything not for WAN Servers) is "Sans UPS", so there must have been some "Pissed-Off Net Geeks" and CSRs wondering around there!

Other than the B of A deal, your story is totally non-funny (very sad).
Not that the B of A thing is laughable, it's just what I have seen go on inside of a Corporate Campus' EDC, when Utility Power is lost that makes me chuckle.

If the power was lost + the Building / Personnel were exposed to any type of Hazardous possibility (i.e.: fire), than it is also not funny.

If power was lost and no one was in any danger (other than running into each other, or tearing clothes on the ends of a Steelcase workstation), than it might be good for a laugh.

Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!

#123978 - 06/23/06 10:13 PM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
duskglow Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/29/06
Posts: 2
Loc: Agoura Hills, CA, USA
I work as a sysadmin at a large bank datacenter in Northridge, and I'm a fan of this site, checking it frequently and enjoying all of the pics of things I would normally never get to see.

And I can tell you that when a datacenter at a bank is taken down, people come out of the woodwork that you didn't even know existed. This happened a few months ago at the DC I work for, and there were a lot of sysadmins like me working overtime that day...

They take it very, *very* seriously.

#123979 - 06/24/06 05:44 AM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
Texas_Ranger Offline

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2332
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Here swapped phase and neutral PoCo jobs (low voltage) occasionally result in fried equipment but never anything like this!

#123980 - 06/24/06 11:02 AM Re: POCO Sub-Contractor Hot -Neutral Reversed
e57 Offline

Registered: 05/27/03
Posts: 2837
Loc: S.F.,CA USA
I walked by a day or so later, and power was still off to the place..... From what I can tell, whoever cut the power at that buildings whetherhead taped the wrong conductor white. There was remenants of the tape and the insulation dripping off the conductor. If they had not reconnected at the high side of the transformer that fault would have been far more obvious.... And on a transformer that small, it should about equally obvious. They did make this connection from the bucket right there at the pole pig, in this case pigglet. The mistake of marking the WH conductors wrong is a an easy mistake that that a non-pre-beaten apprentice, or pre-learned from prior mistake, rushing the job type mistake.

I'll admit, I have learned from a simular mistake of mis-marking a wire. And that reinforced the reasoning in extra precautions made to never do that again.

Anyway, a clarification, after further looking into it, the previously mentioned fire was NEAR the B of A, was an abandon building four story. And threatened spread to it. I was looking for info about it. But during that morning the radio news was saying it was the B of A.... Sorry for the confusion... This thing was big news that morning as it shut down traffic on some major streets and a MUNI street car line. It essentialy gridlocked the city that morning.
Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

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