To those of you in areas that SE is not used it is no surprise you are skeptical of it's safety.
But think on this a little, we are not a bunch of mindless dolts here in the North East.
OK we keep electing Ted Kennedy but you guys have the Governator.
We continue to use SE as it works well, it has a long history of good service (small pun)
Look at the side of your own house, how many marks are on it from it being struck hard enough to damage a cable?
I am 40 years old and have been in the trade 23 years (oh no!) and in all that time I have never personally seen a problem / fault with SE and the large majority of houses and some businesses are SE.
I did see a piece of SE in a code class that a cable guy drilled through. He was inside the house drilling out with a long bit and nailed the SE, he would have just as easily drilled a PVC.
Admittedly RMC would have probably stopped him, unless he tried real hard.
For us in the North East seeing a service riser in
the wall as is done in CA is surprising. We would fail for that here even though it is in RMC.
In the end if SE was as bad as you imagine the use of it would be prohibited. We use the NEC with 60 or 70 amendments, some more restrictive then the NEC some less. My point is here in MA electrical safety is top priority issue with our local code makers.
I will try to get some picture of nice SE jobs, but none of them will look as good as a flush mounted meter with the riser in the wall. It is not possible for a surface mounted equipment to look as good as hidden equipment.
I hope all understand that I am not saying one way is better than the other, only that both ways work and have a proven track record.