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Next week GT Research and the Solar Energy Industry will release their U.S. Solar Market Insight report indicating that the U.S. solar market experienced its biggest year with a 95 percent increase in megawatts installed, year over year. Solar was the No. 1 source of new electricity in 2016, accounting for 39 percent of the new additions.

 

The exponential growth of photovoltaics (PV) is not without concern, particularly as it relates to fires and firefighter safety. Upon arrival at a fire incident, the fire department typically cuts power to a building. Solar panels are required to feature shut-offs but in an emergency situation, it may not always be possible for firefighters to hit the switch. And of course, there is a good chance, day or night, that the units will still be energized. The constant state of electricity leaves firefighters at risk for electrocution. The weight of solar panels on a roof that needs to be vented is also a big concern. Fire departments usually attack fire from inside, but if they cannot vertically vent the roof above a fire due to solar panel placement, they will have to revisit their tactics and tackle it from the outside. If they attempt to fight the fire on the roof, they contend with the possibility of tripping over panels, or a roof collapse. NFPA Journal® covered these concerns and more in the article, Perfect Storm.

 

Last month, the Madison, Illinois Fire Department installed 236 solar panels at their station. They received nearly $270,000 in grant money to save money on their electrical bill. Additionally, the PV installation provides a great opportunity for local fire officials to deliver hands-on first responder training to Madison firefighters and other departments in the region. The station utilized several different solar panel types so that firefighters could get a broad understanding of products and hazards. 

 

NFPA has great PV resources. Visit the PV systems landing page to learn more about the five NFPA codes that reference photovoltaics, research reports, articles, podcasts, international efforts, and other tools in one convenient location.

Picture courtesy of The Oregonian

 

A portable space heater being used as a replacement for a malfunctioning fireplace is responsible for the fire that killed six, including five children, in Riddle, Oregon. According to news reports, combustible materials were placed too close to the heater that started the fire. One survivor suffered burns to his body.

 

This tragedy is an unfortunate reminder that space heaters have the potential to be very dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Last month, NBC’s Today Show featured a report on just how fast-moving and devastating space heater fires can be.

 

According to an NFPA research report on home fires involving heating equipment, space heaters are involved in two of every five fires started by home heating equipment. Moreover, they are by far the most dangerous and destructive types of fire, accounting for 84% of civilian deaths, 75% of civilian injuries, and 52% of direct property damage.

 

NFPA developed a safety tip sheet to help make sure users take the appropriate precautions when using space heaters. To find out more about the causes of home fires, visit NFPA’s report on residential home fires

I don't find March too appealing. It's a long, cold month. Today it has barely reached 32 degrees with a balmy windchill of 22 degrees here in Quincy, MA.  Last week us New Englanders were soaking up the sun and near record heat.  How quickly things change up here! Good thing spring is on its way.  What better time to conduct maintenance on fire protection systems or check compliance with Fire Code requirements. 

 

Today's focus is provisions for portable fire extinguishers.  One of the more common questions I get about fire extinguishers is "where are they required?"  Section 13.6 of NFPA 1, Fire Code, addresses the provisions for portable fire extinguishers.  Most of the requirements are extracted from NFPA's source document for this equipment which is NFPA 10.  The provisions for selection, installation, inspection, maintenance, recharging and testing of portable fire extinguishers all resides in NFPA 10 and is extracted info the Fire Code.

 

 

However, within the section extracted from NFPA 10 is Section 13.6.1.2 which determines first where fire extinguishers are required, and is governed by NFPA 1:

 

13.6.1.2* Where Required. Fire extinguishers shall be provided where required by this Code as specified in Table 13.6.1.2
and the referenced codes and standards listed in Chapter 2.

 

 

Portable fire extinguishers are required by the Code to be installed in the occupancies specified by Table 13.6.1.2.  The Code requires portable fire extinguishers in buildings of every occupancy classification other than one- and two-family dwellings, whereas NFPA 101 requires portable fire extinguishers in far fewer occupancies. The different requirements of NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 are sometimes, incorrectly, perceived as a conflict, but they are not. The scope of NFPA 1 includes occupant safety, emergency responder safety, and property protection; the scope of NFPA 101 is limited to occupant life safety. The broader scope of NFPA 1 warrants different protection requirements — in this case, more stringent requirements than those of NFPA 101 for the installation of portable fire extinguishers. By meeting the more stringent requirements for portable fire extinguishers of NFPA 1, the requirements of NFPA 101 are also met. A conflict would exist only if one code required portable fire extinguishers and another code prohibited them.

 

Do you require portable fire extinguishers in your facility? What common issues have you seen with the portable fire extinguishers?  Training?  Inspection?  Recharging?

 

Thanks for reading.  Happy Friday!

Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA


A Michigan man was awarded $5 million after suffering burns to half his body in a food truck flash fire. Gary Leonard sued his sister and her companies. He was helping his sister prepare her food truck for a festival in 2013 when his lighter lit gas escaping from an unmarked valve, and caused an explosion. The injuries left Leonard hospitalized for three months in an induced coma, with many lingering health problems.

 

This incident, along with one in Philadelphia in 2014 that resulted in the death of a mother and her child, prompted Grand Rapids attorney Paul Janes to call for the need for food truck safety inspections.

 

In recent years, the safety issues associated with food trucks have been championed by NFPA and other safety-conscious authorities across the country. Following the tragic incident in Philadelphia, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) put together a proposal for a new chapter of NFPA 96, the Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations for the ventilation and fire protection controls in these types of operations. The IFMA proposal was highlighted in the NFPA Journal article “All Up in Our Grill”. NFPA 58, LP-Gas Code (propane), addresses safety as it relates to LP-Gas in these types of installations. Additionally, NFPA 1, Fire Code, includes new language regarding mobile and temporary cooking operations.

 

To spread awareness about related protocols and hazards, NFPA has created a food truck public education page with links to codes, a tip sheet and other relevant resources.  

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