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Verizon vs. the Needham Fire Department 195

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the never-had-that-problem-before dept.
netbuzz writes "At issue is whether — or not — there was a minor fire in a house on Pine Grove Street in Needham, Mass., caused by a Verizon employee drilling through an electrical main. Everyone agrees that whatever happened — or didn't happen — was indeed the fault of the Verizon employee; it's "fire or no fire" that is at issue. Verizon says no fire, not even smoke. The Needham Fire Department begs to differ. New eye-witness reports are emerging ... and it's not looking good for Verizon."
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Verizon vs. the Needham Fire Department

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  • wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:37AM (#20235045)
    Believe it or not, this happens more often than you might think. The only difference is: this one got national attention somehow.
    • News at 11 (Score:5, Funny)

      by xmarkd400x (1120317) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:38AM (#20235061)
      Verizon burns customer.
    • Re:wow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AskChopper (1077519) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:49AM (#20235179) Homepage
      Yep.. Happens a lot. Last year I was with a team trying to find a water pipe that was leaking when their JCB dug right through an electrical cable in the water filled hole. The resulting fireball singed the eyebrows off one of the guys who was leaning over the hole to look in. It left a whole Business Park without electricity. The employees loved it because they all got sent home. The companies themselves were less than pleased though!
      • Re:wow (Score:4, Funny)

        by plague3106 (71849) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:28AM (#20235565)
        What, companies send their employees home if the building loses power? Hmm..
        • Re:wow (Score:4, Funny)

          by FuzzyDaddy (584528) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:39AM (#20236505) Journal
          We lose power where I work, on occasion. It always astounds me how little I can get done without it. We usually hang around and chat for an hour, then go home - after all, how long can you chat with your coworkers with no coffee?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by compro01 (777531)
          What, companies send their employees home if the building loses power?

          only companies that don't have backup power. my office could go for about 2 weeks without the power grid, longer if we can get diesel delivered. we're the phone company and we have big-ass generators to run the phone systems and all the other office stuff.
      • Re:wow (Score:4, Funny)

        by Spokehedz (599285) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:46AM (#20235777)
        A couple years back, during the 4th or 5th time they have repaved/dug up Lee Rd. near my house someone nicked a water-main with the shorewall (the metal things they stick in holes so they don't cave-in on workers) and caused a little bitty leak.

        Turns out there was an 100+ year old pipe under the watermain that nobody had been using or known about. The little water leak washed out the soil under the pipe, and while they were trying to figure out what it was the pipe cracked and someone screamed "GAAAAS!". Not 15 seconds after that, the entire Lee Rd. was lit up with 15' tall flames that I could feel well over 500' away on the corner of my street. Houses and the local video store were completely melted on the sides as well as the walgreens and 7-11.

        So yea. This stuff happens. All the more reason why we should have open and accessible standards and records.
        • With today's technology IMO this is inexcuseable.

          There is no reason that a city can't create a system such that the workers carry with them a GPS-enabled mapping device that can show them EXACTLY what is under them ANYWHERE.

          In fact such a system should be federally mandated as mandatory. I hear way too many stories like this.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dickens (31040)
            If they knew to begin with where everything was that would be practical. Certainly in areas of new development GPS mapping would be an obvious thing to do. But in areas like New England, where the infrastructure is old, it's likely nobody knows where everything is. Records might have burned, people might have died. The stories from Boston's "big dig" were legend.

            I can imagine it might be even worse in some areas of Europe.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by i.r.id10t (595143)
            Only works if the data in the maps is accurate, or even present. Both issues I've seen with utilities mappings at my own home...
            • I've been on the mapping end of this (digitizing paper utility maps) and on the plumbing side (as a laborer/gopher). The best plans are useless when the plumbing company figures out a shortcut that will potentially save them money. The location and material of buried lines may not match the engineers plans.
          • by jridley (9305)
            Yup, and they'd proceed to ignore the information.
            A few years back, a neighbor was getting broadband installed. They "called miss dig" and the yard got flagged for the underground electrical - however, it was old so the depth was not normal, so they flagged it clearly as "hand dig only".

            The contractor showed up and proceeded to run his horizontal boring rig straight into the power feed and fried every piece of electrical equipment in the house.
          • by phulegart (997083)
            GPS is not ground penetrating radar. For a GPS based device to work, someone would have to know what was under the ground first. Kind of like how Google maps will get you to the building you want, but won't provide you with a floor plan and the furniture layouts.

            Now, if several groups people would take the time to do the research in all the existing records, then back it up with some ground penetrating radar, and finally create a visual database (say a utilities version of google maps) that would be easil
          • by Calinous (985536)
            Yes, you also need a precision of at least several meters (10 feet or so). This is not so easy to have
          • There is nothing in this story about underground utilities. This is about an installation technician drilling a hole into the wall of a house and hitting a wire.

            There REALLY is no excuse for this since an AC finder tool is relatively inexpensive and readily available.
          • by c_forq (924234)
            I worked for an oil pipeline maintenance company for a while, and in the states we did most of our work (Michigan and Illinois) both had programs where state workers would mark the location of all underground utilities for free, you just had to give three working days notice. In these states this issue shouldn't happen, unfortunately people dig without calling the service and shit happens. Also there is a problem that the service marked approximate locations, and every now and than the approximate locatio
            • by muridae (966931)
              Virginia provides this service as well, and requires anyone doing any digging to call and have the lines marked. Anyone not calling the number and allowing a few days for the markings becomes responsible for the damage they cause.

              I can't say that the marking system works too well, though. My father, in the process of putting in a drainage ditch, discovered that the people marking his lawn used metal detectors to find the lines that they already had map references to. What the map did not show was that the g

          • There are numerous reasons why such devices are near useless in many localities. Here's a couple simple ones.

            - Some pipes/conduits are very old and even if their location was recorded properly (50, 60, 100 years ago), their referentials are no longer in the same place (for instance, pipe, 30' North off-center of road - for a road surface that has changed during that time due to simple things, like over-paving an edge by a few feet, or no curb/curb-line causing each subsequent re-pave to change the road dim

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Near where I live some construction people severed an electric main while digging for the foundations of a new building and the whole city was left without power. Okay, that happens, to err is human, etc. The WTF part of this story is that these people, after severing a cable and seeing every light in the city around them wink out, didn't think to tell the power company (or anyone else for that matter) what had happened and where the fault was. It took 6 hours to get the power restored, all because these la

    • Re:wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by matt328 (916281) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:30AM (#20235595)
      Yes it does. Awhile back I had cable internet installed at my parent's house. When I asked the tech how he planned on getting the actual cable into the house, he pulled out a drill with an 18 inch long, 7/16" bit, told me to stand back, and just haphazardly poked a hole right through the siding, insulation, drywall, everything.

      I'm sure if the guy would have hit a wire, electrocuted himself and fell off the ladder you would have read about him suing me.
    • Re:wow (Score:4, Funny)

      by biobogonics (513416) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:41AM (#20236533)

      Believe it or not, this happens more often than you might think. The only difference is: this one got national attention somehow.


      Maybe if it had happened in Billerica instead of Needham it would have appeared on PBS. "On Tonight's episode of This Old House - what happens when you drill through an electrical main."

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I have a friend who's an electrician. One of his friends called him saying he was having all sorts of electrical outages around his house. When he went to check it out for him, he discovered that a cable TV installer (don't know what company) had drilled from outside directly into the back of the panel!! He apparently had just gone ahead drilling another hole a foot over and tip-toed away not saying a thing...miracle it didn't burn the place down.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bigdavesmith (928732)
      Agreed. If I got my name in the news every time I drilled through a power line in my house or hammered a nail through a water pipe, I'd be more popular than Paris Hilton.

      I can't imagine it's any better for someone who isn't familiar with the house at all!
  • I'm Sorry (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JamesRose (1062530)
    Since when do you beleive a company that would get sued over the professional firefighters- it's just commmon sense, then you add the fact that people saw the damn thing. What's m ore interesting is the fact that verizon doesn't claim its not their fault- so they're accepting blame for something but not telling you what....?
    • I don't know ... what's the purpose of claiming that .02 dollars is the same as .02 cents?
    • Re:I'm Sorry (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ePhil_One (634771) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:27AM (#20236331) Journal
      Keep in mind words aren't as precise as we'd like them to be, over the years they take on multiple meanings. Witness the following permutayions on a classic Military phrase, which you think would be very well defined:

      One reason the Armed Services have trouble operating jointly is that they have very different meanings for the same terms.

      The Joint Chiefs once told the Navy to "secure a building," to which they responded by turning off the lights and locking the doors.

      The Joint Chiefs then instructed Army personnel to "secure the building," and they occupied the building so no one could enter.

      Upon receiving the exact same order, the Marines assaulted the building, captured it, and set up defenses with suppressive fire & amphibious assault vehicles, established reconnaissance and communications channels, and prepared for close hand-to-hand combat if the situation arose.

      But the Air Force, on the other hand, acted most swiftly on the command, and took out a three-year lease with an option to buy.

      So its quite possible that both sides are telling the truth, there was no fire & there was a fire. If I asked you if there had ever been a fire in your house, you might truthfully tell me no, even though you had a gas stove, lit matches and candles, and maybe even flambe's some meals. Would that make you a liar?

      • by Knara (9377)
        I find your anecdote amusing. Is there a source for it available?
        • Considering the events as portrayed, I'm guessing the USMC.
        • by Richy_T (111409) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @01:19PM (#20238649) Homepage

          #include <stdio.h>

          int main(){
          printf ("%s", "Keep in mind words aren't as precise as we'd like them to be, over the years they take on multiple meanings. Witness the following permutayions on a classic Military phrase, which you think would be very well defined:

          One reason the Armed Services have trouble operating jointly is that they have very different meanings for the same terms.

          The Joint Chiefs once told the Navy to \"secure a building,\" to which they responded by turning off the lights and locking the doors.

          The Joint Chiefs then instructed Army personnel to \"secure the building,\" and they occupied the building so no one could enter.

          Upon receiving the exact same order, the Marines assaulted the building, captured it, and set up defenses with suppressive fire & amphibious assault vehicles, established reconnaissance and communications channels, and prepared for close hand-to-hand combat if the situation arose.

          But the Air Force, on the other hand, acted most swiftly on the command, and took out a three-year lease with an option to buy.

          So its quite possible that both sides are telling the truth, there was no fire & there was a fire. If I asked you if there had ever been a fire in your house, you might truthfully tell me no, even though you had a gas stove, lit matches and candles, and maybe even flambe's some meals. Would that make you a liar?");
          }
        • I first heard it from an ex-Navy guy; in his version the Navy's approach to securing a computer is to tie it down so it won't bounce around when you ship it. (The Marines did armed guards, the air force still did a purchase order, and I don't think he mentioned the Army, but nobody did what we think of as securing computers.) Dave was _much_ neater than I was at handling cables - they'd get stowed carefully in drawers, or fastened to the rack with cable tie instead of hanging around like spaghetti. He wa
      • Re:I'm Sorry (Score:4, Insightful)

        by COMON$ (806135) * on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @01:20PM (#20238661) Journal
        You are precisely right here. I have read over these paragraphs trying to find 1 of 2 things:


        1. That the fire chief ever said there was a fire...

        Today, however -- out of an overabundance of caution (always a good thing) - the Needham Times reporter doubled back to DeIulio and asked if there was any truth to Verizon's contention that there was no fire at the fire on Pine Grove Street. I had contacted the paper earlier and asked that they let me know if any correction proved necessary.

        It has not.

        "If there's flames, there's fire," Deputy Fire Chief DeIulio said to reporter Ryan, demonstrating once again that public relations professionals need approximately 20 words to every one required by regular people to tell their side of any story.

        No argument is being made between the two individuals, no suit no nothing. Verison took responsibility for the issue, paying for the whole thing. Even if there were a contention on the state of the accident whether there be a wire cut and sparks flew or if there was an actual electrical fire, it wouldn't change the outcome. No one is covering up anything, no one, but the author is making an issue of this. Just one of the millions of accidents that happen due to poor planning each year.

        Should I write a blog on how I had two fiber connections dug up in 1 week here? No, the companies took responsibility and fixed the problem, case closed.

        2. Why on earth this is even a story, I live in smallville midwest and this wouldn't even make it as a paragraph in the Living section. This has the feeling of a 15 year old kid scrambling to find a story for a paper before deadline in an hour. Lot of speculation and lack of actual comments in context. I feel like a piece of my life was just wasted reading the article. Similar to how I made it through Mission to Mars, I kept hoping there would be a point to the movie but alas just a section of my life I will never get back. Kind of like how you feel now for reading my post. Just had to do something to make reading this article worth my time.

        • by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @02:32PM (#20239639)

          Why on earth this is even a story, I live in smallville midwest and this wouldn't even make it as a paragraph in the Living section. This has the feeling of a 15 year old kid scrambling to find a story for a paper before deadline in an hour. Lot of speculation and lack of actual comments in context. I feel like a piece of my life was just wasted reading the article. Similar to how I made it through Mission to Mars, I kept hoping there would be a point to the movie but alas just a section of my life I will never get back. Kind of like how you feel now for reading my post. Just had to do something to make reading this article worth my time.

          SCANDAL ON SLASHDOT

          An article published on a popular Internet news site Slashdot has been revealed to contain inaccuracies. This shocking revelation, centered around an article concerning a possible attempt at arson committed by Verizon, Inc's employee against the company's customer in Needham, Mass., is only the latest scandal surrounding Slashdot. While the police did not give any details at this time, an attempt to indicate the local fire department of lying is rumored to be at the heart of the matter.

          A Slashdot reader, identifying himself as a veteran of the Mission to Mars, expressed his outrage of the incident, but felt confident that the mental skills honed at that mission would help him cope through these traumatic times.

          "I feel like a piece of my life was just wasted reading the article.", said one reader. Others have engaged in anti-social behavior; one caught in the act said: "Just had to do something to make reading this article worth my time."

          -Ultranova, reporting live from Slashdot.

  • by Renaissance 2K (773059) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:38AM (#20235067)

    Verizon technical workers are careless and unqualified?

    I'm shocked!

  • Headline? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:40AM (#20235079) Journal
    Is this even worth being on Slashdot? Employee screws up, causes problems. International news?

    Crap, several of our T1 lines were cut last week by a government employee who "forgot" to get a map of buried cables before digging. It cost us a heck of a lot more than a house (OT and moving of computer equipment from one location to another)... and that is just our business. I am not even sure it got local coverage.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:43AM (#20235125) Homepage Journal

      who "forgot" to get a map of buried cables before digging.

      In my experience the easiest way to find the owner of a cable is to break it and wait for the complaints.

      • by andrewbaldwin (442273) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:41AM (#20235737)
        This sounds like a joke but I assure you it is true....

        Some years ago the water/sewage pipes were being repaired just outside the office where I worked. The trench was gradually making its progress up the road, across the pavement [sidewalk] and was closing in on the visitors' car park in front of the building.

        The facilities manager walked out to meet them and spoke to the foreman.

        "Please be careful and watch out when you're digging here, there are some comms cables running across the car park here, they are about 1 metre down"

        "Don't you worry about that sir... we'll be digging much deeper than that" came the reply.

        The really sad part was that he couldn't see why we were laughing.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by DeathPickle (771328)
        heh Seriously. When I was in college back in the early 90's, the company I interned for switched from thicknet ethernet over to twisted pair. (ahhhh the days of repairing a coax connector because the cleaning crew ran over the cable with the vacuum cleaner...) The rollout took several months, and my semester ended, so I went back to school for a semester and another intern (from a different school) came in. When I returned the following semester, I got my education in why it's important to label things
        • Best one I ever saw was a situation where the cabling had been done, done well, and labeled, accurately, with the room number and jack number.

          Then some PHB came by and decided he didn't like the way the rooms were numbered, so he changed the numbers, but he didn't switch to an entirely new system so some of the numbers remained the same, though usually (but not always) attached to different rooms.

          The excellent labeling became a major handicap, and, of course, no one was ever tasked with fixing the label sys
      • by guruevi (827432)
        Oh really? In my experience the most busy lines (as in network cabling etc.) or processes can be broken without anybody complaining for DAYS, but make sure you don't break the connection to YouTube since you will get complaints almost instantaneously.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        There's also a corollary that says if you ever need a backhoe, just bury a few feet of fiber in the ground and one will show up shortly to cut it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Is this even worth being on Slashdot? Employee screws up, causes problems. International news?

      I have to agree...interesting, but only marginally newsworthy.

      Crap, several of our T1 lines were cut last week by a government employee who "forgot" to get a map of buried cables before digging. It cost us a heck of a lot more than a house (OT and moving of computer equipment from one location to another)... and that is just our business. I am not even sure it got local coverage.

      Gotta love it when that happens. We

    • Blogspam (Score:5, Informative)

      by Megaweapon (25185) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:04AM (#20235297) Homepage
      The submitter ("When not blogging, I am a Network World news editor and write the 'Net Buzz column.") [networkworld.com] is just linking to his crappy blog, which is just whoring his employer [networkworld.com].
      • Re:Blogspam (Score:4, Insightful)

        by triplecoil (823470) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:49AM (#20235805)
        What's your point? Story submissions have to come from somewhere. He thought the Slashdot crowd would be interested in his take on it, and so did CmdrTaco, apparently. The source of the submission, regardless of what you think of the story in and of itself, should have no impact on whether or not readers should deem it valid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ageoffri (723674)
      At least this is closer to News for Nerds then slashdot trying to discuss politics.
      • by zarqman (64555)

        At least this is closer to News for Nerds then slashdot trying to discuss politics.
        because nerds are immune from the effects of politics and political decisions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537)

      Throughout my career in IT, I've had countless problems with Verizon T1s. This is spanning about 8 years, between NY and DC.

      I've actually called an ISP when a T1 went out and had them say, "That's funny, I have a record that Verizon just fixed a T1 on your street!" That's right, they broke my T1 while fixing another person's T1.

      And now that I have a couple bonded T1s, I've seen it happen more directly. I've actually had problems with one T1, and right when it goes up, another goes down. Then I call ba

    • by david.given (6740)

      Crap, several of our T1 lines were cut last week by a government employee who "forgot" to get a map of buried cables before digging.

      My father recently put in a fence. As there were streelights in the vicinity, he called the electricity company to inquire about where the cables were.

      Not only did they send him a map, but they also sent a guy round with a van and a cable detector to make sure that they were actually where the map was (free of charge). My general impression was that they were delighted that

  • So there may or may not have been a fire but the tech definitely drilled through a mains cable. Don't they carry instruments for that? Something which picks up 60Hz AC?

    In any event it should be SOP to drill a shallow hole at first and check the cavity for cables before drilling further. Thats how I would do it anyway.
    • by Mike89 (1006497)
      Sorry for OT, but replying to your sig - What programming language?
  • by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:41AM (#20235089) Journal
    Maybe all the Die Hard 4.0 previews have left be numb, but this story is difficult for me to get excited about.

    What's next? "Verizon Employee caught stealing Stationary: Box of blue pens missing. Only cap left."
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:42AM (#20235109) Journal
    I thought this would not even merit a place in the Firehose. Come on guys, if you keep posting such rubbish, I have to log out and do some work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by empedocles (679389)

      I thought this would not even merit a place in the Firehose. Come on guys, if you keep posting such rubbish, I have to log out and do some work.

      But it does give everyone a chance to complain about editorial quality here, soothe the masses before double posting a story about the RIAA, Microsoft, SCO, or illegal wiretapping.

      And if it hadn't been posted I would have missed my chance to read this:

      As my wife, Julie, just noted, Deputy Fire Chief DeIulio has no ax to grind, unless you want to count the one

  • One of our new techs was installing a triple play at a Needham home (they're selling like hotcakes, btw).

    Perhaps not the best turn of phrase to use, all things considered...
  • by mixnblend (1002943) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:44AM (#20235127)

    Verizon says no fire, not even smoke..
    I'm sure that whenever theres a fire Verizon are first on the scene, their trusty technicians battling the burning blazes and rescuing babies from the 4th floor. Now if only those pesky firefighters who are totally unqualified to determine what is and what isn't a fire would'nt go sticking their noses in where they're not wanted...
  • by outriding9800 (547724) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:46AM (#20235153)
    /Verizon waves hand This is the not the fire you are looking for...
  • Blame (Score:2, Informative)

    by DCBoland (700327)
    Whilst of course it would be best practice to check for a mains line before drilling, it's most likely the electrical wire was somewhere it shouldn't have been. Here in the UK such wires should be in line with light switches etc and never go diagonally etc. Id imagine/hope similar rules apply in here...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gordonjcp (186804)
      They don't. In the US, the electrical code allows for stuff that would have any sparky this side of the pond running for the hills.
      • by PitaBred (632671)
        Only if a homeowner does it vs. a contractor. We still have a pretty stringent electrical code. Also, realize that the US operates on 110V standard, rather than your 220V stuff. I've seen some horrible stuff done by homeowners themselves, but overall most construction isn't too terrible. It all makes sense, you just have to know the code.
        • by Gordonjcp (186804)
          Also, realize that the US operates on 110V standard, rather than your 220V stuff
          ... which means that everything draws twice the current, necessitating huge thick cables and really strong connections.
  • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:53AM (#20235221)
    "Who cares?"

    I mean seriously, this didn't even make the local news.

    Anyone want to post a front-page story about the plastic Dasani water bottle I found in my front lawn this morning? I feel it was tossed there from a passing car. My girlfriend thinks it was blown there from across the street. I told her people litter all the time on the street in front of our house, so they probably just tossed it on the front lawn.

    FWIW, there was no fire in my house when Verizon installed my ONT. Me, Verizon and the town all agree on that.
    • by Skapare (16644)

      Anyone want to post a front-page story about the plastic Dasani water bottle I found in my front lawn this morning? I feel it was tossed there from a passing car. My girlfriend thinks it was blown there from across the street. I told her people litter all the time on the street in front of our house, so they probably just tossed it on the front lawn.

      It's probably the airport security people having fun with all the loot they take at the security check points.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:57AM (#20235249) Homepage
    Verizon guy shorts the home's electric main, it sparks like hell inside the wall leaving burns and smoke comes out of the meter where the fuse blew.

    Argument that its a fire: things got burned.

    Argument that its not a fire: apparantly no secondary ignition. The burns were evidently from the sparks and the fuse melting.

    As for the fireman saying, "if there's flames..." It take a few minutes for the fire truck to arrive. If there were flames when they got there, they'd be substantial enough that there wouldn't be any argument over whether there was a fire. His claim of the existance of flames can't be based on primary observation by either him or his staff.

    I can see why Verizon cares about the difference. If there was a fire, that's a compelling reason for the county to change the ordinances governing the certifications their installers are required to hold. If there were just some sparks with the protection on the electrical circuits preventing a fire as designed then there's no reason to change the ordinances.
    • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:26AM (#20235529) Homepage
      [quote]If there were just some sparks with the protection on the electrical circuits preventing a fire as designed then there's no reason to change the ordinances.[/quote]

      If this was actually the building's "electric main" (properly called the service conductors), there isn't really any overcurrent protection on them. The service drop and wiring between the meter and the main breaker/disconnect are UNFUSED, with the only protection being a fuse on the primary side of the transformer out on the utility pole, which generally serves 5-6 homes, if not the entire block.

      In the event of a short circuit on these wires, fault currents of thousands of amperes are potentially available. The end of the drill bit used by that Verizon tech most likely turned into a ball of plasma when it hit those wires. The guy is lucky that the accident happened inside a wall cavity, or he likely would have gotten a faceful of metal vapor and some nasty burns.

      Accidents involving arc-flash burns like this actually kill more electricians than outright electrocution does.

    • by SmurfButcher Bob (313810) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:04AM (#20236009) Journal
      Pretty much agreed. The TFA's inquiry about "the fire at xxx", along with his remark that "I'd have been corrected by the chief if there was no fire"... Not correct.

      For us, in the context of history, a "fire" and a "call" are the same thing. "How was that fire last night?" "Oh, it was just a buggy detector." Within that parlance, "fire" is synonymous with "call" - so TFA's assertion that the chief "not correcting him" is crap.

      The chief's report of an actual fire will generally depend on criteria that varies per state (and possibly county). But as a matter of course, we don't pull sheetrock without cause - and the responding crew clearly felt the need to do so, and I take that as a good indicator. The only question is what they found in the void space - did some cobwebs cook off and go out, did some insulation smolder and go out of its own accord, or did they actually have to flow some water. Note that the chief will tend to report any sign of charring as a fire, even if it's cold when we get there. "Did something burn?" "Yes, clearly." "Did it sustain?" "No. It was electrical, and it went out when the breaker tripped." While the event may have been a simple "arc and spark", it still constitutes an electrical fire in every NFPA and IFSTA book ever written. Quite the dilemma.

      Slightly OT, but you'll enjoy this - "It takes a few minutes for the fire truck to arrive. If there were flames when they got there, they'd be substantial enough that..."
      There's an old saying. If you can't find the house, just wait. Sooner or later, it'll vent :)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dmpyron (1069290)
        Friend's house got hit by lightning (not a FOAF). Her TV literally jumped off its stand and she had a hole in her roof and ceiling where it hit. Her neighbor immediately called 911 and the Round Rock FD was there in about 4 minutes. Six units, total. They used an infrared camera to check all of her walls for smoldering (or whatever firefighters call it). Spent three or four hours there, put a tarp on her roof and even called an electrician and the telco for her. The report listed it as "lightning strik
    • "If there were flames when they got there, they'd be substantial enough that there wouldn't be any argument over whether there was a fire."

      My wife used to design sprinkler systems and just from the earbashing* I've received I know that's totally wrong. A fire can remain smoldering for hours, and burst into flame when it's finally exposed.

      * Checking into a hotel with a fire protection engineer is an education. :)
  • DirecTV Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Se7enLC (714730) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:11AM (#20235365) Homepage Journal
    When I wanted to add a cable drop in my room, I opted to pay DirecTV to do the installation, thinking that they would bring a giant ladder and check to make sure that they ran the cable in an appropriate place. Things that I shouldn't be doing in a rental apartment. Oh no. Here's what they did:
    • They took my personally-owned coax cable and cut the end off it. (I had a 50ft cable running to the jack in the other room as a temporary solution).
    • Drilled a hole through the wall going outside without even pausing to consider what was in that wall
    • Dropped the cable down the side of the house
    • Realized it wasn't long enough and put a coupler on it and added another cable (don't they have SPOOLS OF CABLE on their truck?)
    • Drilled a hole through the frame of the basement window
    • Fed the cable haphazardly in to connect to the box.
    • Attached the cable to the wall by putting a staple THROUGH the cable, trying to take it back out of the cable, giving up, cutting off the excess, and using another staple to go around it.

    It was only a matter of time before one of these morons drilled through an electrical line.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573)
      You got off easy. I wasn't home during the installation, someone else was. They put the dish on the roof, laid the line down the side of the house, drilled into the side of my garage and stapled the line to the wall that ran around the garage to the wall nearest to the house's cable box inside the kitchen closet. He drilled another hole into the closet (getting shit all over the jackets that were hanging in there) and then ran the wires into the box w/o thinking that now I cannot put the cover back over
      • by PitaBred (632671)
        And that is why I babysit EVERY installer that comes to my place, for anything. I've found that about 1 in 3 does a decent job without me having to watch them like a hawk.
    • They must keep hitting the cable they use to carry my DSL signal because it was useless most of Monday and seems to choke regularly at approx 10pm. I assume they send out a night crew to drill into cables around then.
    • Those guys are all contractors, paid by the number of installs completed. They DO NOT CARE about quality or design, just "getting complete" so they can get paid. They will take the shortest, fastest path to the checkbox saying they are done unless you are there to make them do otherwise.

      Most people in most jobs are not quality focused, and therefore need to be supervised in order to make sure that the job is well done.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pojut (1027544)
      Somewhat interesting FiOS install story through Verizon at my parents house. These two fellas come out, great guys...I'm talking to them for a good hour or so before they start the work (due to the way our house is in relation to everything else, this was going to be a 5-7 hour job)

      In the short 23 years I have been alive, I have never seen installers work with as much care as these two guys did. If they were going to drill walls, they put blankets over any objects near the drill sites, they COMPLETELY cle
  • by Skapare (16644) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:24AM (#20235513) Homepage

    There are a couple reports of smoke, one pinpointing the electric meter. And a neighbor reported electric power flickering. Both of these suggest to me there was an arcing fault in the electric service feed between the meter and the first main breaker/fuse in the electrical panel for the house.

    These points along the electrical service wiring are critical because there is no overcurrent protection suitable to shut them off. The amount of current such an arc cause draw will be substantial, but it won't always be more than all the homes sharing the same transformer could draw combined at peak loads. So that fuse leading into the transformer isn't likely to stop it. It is intended to stop a short on the high voltage windings inside the transformer. These fuses are intentionally set high to avoid false outages.

    Today's electrical codes require substantial physical protection of the wiring between the meter and main panel, such as enclosure in conduit for short distances, and more significant protection for longer distances. But lots of older wiring doesn't have this protection.

    Telephone and cable service also needs to come in next to the power for proper grounding purposes.

    My biggest concern is the technician doing the installation not having the proper training to work around the power connections.

    • Apparently you are not aware of the breakers between the high-voltage lines feeding the transformers on the poles.

      Also, cableTV/phone lines do NOT need to come in near power. A cold water pipe (such as one leading to an outside spigot) will do just fine, and is in fact preferable. Note that Fiber (which I suspect may have been what was being installed here, Verizon FiOS) specifically does NOT need to be grounded (although the inside equipment they connect it to will need an ordinary house current connection
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:24AM (#20235517) Homepage

    There is no doubt when something is on fire. We deal with all kinds of incidents. We're a dirt poor volunteer department and even we have thermal cameras that will distinguish the merely hot from something on fire, even through walls. We also have infrared surface thermometers so we know where to cut the hole in the wall.

    I've also seen it happen that something was smoking hot until the access hole is cut and when the air gets in it bursts into flame. Particularly in walls and behind panels. I doubt the Verizon techs were close enough to see when the fire department got there.

    The witnesses said they saw white, puffy smoke. That usually means the fire is out. It also indicates there was a fire to put out.

    Just amazes me that the truth is so hard for so many organizations these days.

    • The witnesses said they saw white, puffy smoke.

      "All that smoke? Yeah, it was, uh, those Verizon guys. They hit a power line. It smells like pot?? Weird, dude..."
  • .02 cents per damaged .00001 square foot of property!
  • Tim Allen (Score:5, Funny)

    by sjaguar (763407) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:48AM (#20235793) Homepage
    The first thing I thought of is that drilling through the main would be something Tim Allen would do on "Home Improvement" [imdb.com]. It reminded me of a quote of his:

    Electricity can be dangerous. My nephew tried to stick a penny into a plug. Whoever said a penny doesn't go far didn't see him shoot across that floor. I told him he was grounded.
  • Seriously!
    Verizon: There was no fire
    FireFighter: Yes there was a fire, I saw it
    Verizon: And who are you to determine if there was a fire or not
    FireFighter: ... You're kidding, right?
    Verizon: No, because there was no fire.
    FireFighter: ... Hello McFly.... I'm a professional FIRE Fighter... You'd think I'm qualified to tell if there's a fire or not.
  • ...he'll come up with some common-sense restatement.

    If the PR guy is smart, I'd suggest a factual statement of what occurred that simply omits any opinion on whether or not there was "a fire" which does not seem to be of any importance.

    For example, something like, "Our technician cut a wire, causing a short-circuit, sparks, and smoke visible to passers-by. Verizon called the Needham fire department was called immediately. The technician is OK. The problem was quickly contained. Nothing outside the electrica
  • News that matters (Score:2, Insightful)

    by roaddemon (666475)
    Uh... I'm at work in Needham right now. I've also got Verizon DSL and a Verizon cellphone so I'd guess that this story is more relevant to me than almost anyone else on Slashdot. My questions is: if this doesn't matter to me, who does it matter to?
  • Measurement (Score:3, Funny)

    by wizzahd (995765) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @11:02AM (#20236841)
    All of this could have been avoided if he had only drilled .002 meters to the left.
  • by NavyTim (1060580)
    What is the big deal? Every commercial I see has about 350+ people walking around. If there "was" a "fire", can you imagine how big the Chinese Water Drill line would have been. FIRE=out in seconds. It's the Network...
  • About 5 years ago some construction crew cut a fiber line downtown Vancouver which cut off Harbour Center or at least quie a few of the ISP's/Webhost.

    About a year earlier in Burnaby a construction crew hit a gas line about 100 feet away from our offices. They closed off the whole block till BC arrived and fixed the hole.
    • by Tycho (11893)
      Sounds like they handled your gas line rupture better than this:

      http://www.cnn.com/US/9812/11/explosion.02/index.h tml [cnn.com]

      Yes, yes I know it isn't all fun and collapsing bridges in Minnesota. Sometimes whe have the above. Seriously though, last October, Buffalo, a large town in Minnesota, had its gas service shut off because of a gas line leak. They shut the gas main off and then went to door to door in the town shutting each of the gas meters off. The necessary gas line work was done. Then, the gas main w
  • Founded during the great pork shortage of 1680.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A civil engineer friend told me he was called to inspect a leak in a multi-story downtown building. In the top floor mechanical area, he found a huge hole blasted in the concrete, and twisted metal wreckage of tension bars peeling up from it. The hole wasn't empty, though. It has a cell mast support in it. The building owner had leased space to a cell company, and they had drilled through the concrete, and in doing so had cut apart the sinews holding the building together. "It must have sounded like an
  • Whenever I help out a friend with some networking job I explain why I won't drill holes in their place, loan them my 18" drill bit and ask them to line somebody up to drill the holes. I do not want to be responsible for burning down a building or piercing a water pipe.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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