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An article in the Freehold Patch describes a legislative proposal that would require an emblem on buildings where solar panels are attached to protect firefighters from electrocution. With the increasing number of buildings using alternative energy, emergency responders are often unable to identify structures with solar panels on their roofs — putting them at risk of electrocution in the event of a fire.
In an effort to protect firefighters against the danger of electrocution posed by solar panels, Assemblyman Robert Schroeder (R-Woodcliff Lake), a volunteer firefighter in the Township of Washington since 1980 who has twice served as fire chief, has sponsored a [bill | http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/A0500/266_S1.PDF] that would require buildings to clearly label with an exterior emblem whether they have solar panels.
The bipartisan bill was approved by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, on which Schroeder serves.
"Safe firefighting requires knowledge and awareness of the situation. This bill will let emergency responders know at a glance when there's a threat of electrocution because the building is actively harnessing power from the sun."
The NFPA report, "Fire Fighter Safety & Emergency Response for Solar Power Systems," recommended the safety measure as it focuses on on structural firefighting in buildings that utilize solar panels to generate thermal and/or electrical energy.
According to the report, buildings with solar power systems "can present a variety of significant hazards" for firefighters.
In addition, the bill requires that all existing and newly constructed buildings with solar panels be equipped with an external shut-off switch.
"We can have clean reliable energy without making fires any more dangerous than they already are," said Schroeder. "As a firefighter, I understand the value of knowing immediately what potential dangers await in a burning building I might have to enter."
In the video below, Ken Willette of NFPA's Public Fire Protection division talks about the interface of green building codes and tactical firefighting operations, and using NFPA 1500 and NFPA 1620 to develop response protocols that enhance firefighter safety.