More than 8,000 firefighters now have a better chance of staying alive at a fire after they completed a three-hour long electrical safety awareness class offered free by the IELMCC, IBEW and NECA. Instructor and electrician, CJ Hamilton, talked with Energy Independence Magazine about the classes given by the union as a public service at the recent Firehouse World Expo.
It doesn’t sound sexy or exciting. Yet a three-hour long session on electrical safety awareness was one of the most popular of some 80 seminars at the recent annual Firehouse World Expo in San Diego.


If you would like more information about this article or organization, click here.
More than 8,000 firefighters now have a better chance of staying alive at a fire after they completed a three-hour long electrical safety awareness class offered free by the IELMCC, IBEW and NECA. Instructor and electrician, CJ Hamilton, talked with Energy Independence Magazine about the classes given by the union as a public service at the recent Firehouse World Expo.
It doesn’t sound sexy or exciting. Yet a three-hour long session on electrical safety awareness was one of the most popular of some 80 seminars at the recent annual Firehouse World Expo in San Diego.
Instructor and electrician, CJ Hamilton, talked with Energy Independence Magazine about the classes offered free to firefighters as a public service by the IELMCC, IBEW and NECA.
Over the last three years, more than 8,000 firefighters have taken the electrical safety awareness class which amounts to about $1 million in free training given by the union, said Hamelton. “The only reason I’m there (at a convention) is to let them (firefighters) know what electricity might do, could do, should do, and won’t do,” he said. “If we can get them to understand those four things, it’s going to save their lives. It’s that simple.”
Some of the major topics covered in the class are arc flashes, arc blasts, Faraday cages and downed power lines.
“When we do the downed power lines, they come away with distances,” Hamilton said. “We know how far electricity can travel, so they (firefighters) get those distances.”
Probably the most dangerous thing firefighters run into is a Faraday cage which is an enclosure that blocks external static and non-static electric fields, he said. The cages are sometimes used in drug houses or businesses stealing electricity. If firefighters are battling a fire in a structure with a Faraday cage, they’re stepping in water from their fire hoses, and that water has electricity in it because it’s coming from the utility. It gets on their body, and they don’t discharge themselves. So, firefighters are walking around with that electricity on their body and they can’t see it, touch it, taste it or smell it, Hamilton said.
We’ve also found out 95% of the firefighters have never heard of an arc flash or arc blast, and they’re around it every day, he said. The awareness class teaches them about shutting-off breakers, shutting-off disconnects and what electricity does. “You have to remember an arc flash or arc blast moves at the speed of light, and burns at 35,000 degrees,” Hamilton said. “It blows up with enough power equal to eight sticks of dynamite.”
The IELMCC now also offers a solar electrical safety awareness class. Solar panels present a whole new electrical hazard for firefighters because direct current solar power doesn’t shut off the same way as an alternating current line from the a utility company. “They’re having all sorts of trouble. When they get in there, they’re not sure where to cut the wires, how to cut the wires, where they’re going to get injured.”
“We thought the course was very valuable,” said Tom Wills, Anaheim Fire Department Training Officer. “This was one of the few training topics where I actually had firefighters come into my office after the training and make a point of telling me how much they enjoyed the training, and how much value they got out of the training.”
Wills also said he appreciates the IBEW offering the class to fire personnel for free. “Any information you can get prior to working around electrical hazards is going to potentially save your life.”

— KJ THOMAS

FireHouse Expo: Teaching Electrical Safety to Firefighters