In 2015, NFPA introduced a first-of-its-kind Energy Storage System (ESS) Safety Training Program for the United States fire service, thanks to support from FEMA. The training was developed with the support of several first responder organizations, FDNY, DNV-GL, and the California Energy Storage Alliance, a 90-firm energy ESS membership organization. FEMA has granted another two-year grant to NFPA so that ESS training can be updated and promoted to the nation’s 1.1 million firefighters.
The new program will address pre-incident planning; tactical training; hazards involved with many common battery chemistries; extinguishing techniques to minimize re-ignition; an overview of residential and commercial systems; photovoltaic safety training; and standards alignment. Training will be delivered via train-the-trainer, classroom, online self-paced, and virtual live instructional mediums using interactive animations and scenario simulations, educational videos, and quick reference materials. The new grant effort coincides with the work that NFPA’s Technical Committee is doing to develop NFPA 855 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems.
For several years now, the energy sector has been experiencing a revolution. According to GTM research, by 2022 the U.S. energy storage market is expected to be worth $3.1 billion, which would be a 9-fold increase from 2016 levels. This trend comes at a time when tens of millions of New York, Massachusetts, and California residents are facing the imminent shutdown of nuclear power plants that provide significant power. In response to this impending deficit, the aforementioned states plus Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii, have already mandated widespread ESS deployment.
High power battery energy storage systems (BESS) are comprised of hundreds or even thousands of smaller battery cells, similar to those found in cell phones and hover boards. These systems are often connected to a micro grid that houses power reserves. The idea of less expensive commercial power from solar panels or wind farms - that can be used, stored and available during peak hours or blackouts - is very attractive to business leaders and consumers.
The U.S. fire service, however; has little experience with potential ESS hazards and response scenarios involving these high-powered systems. This lack of knowledge could potentially pose risks to the public and first responders. As part of the ESS training revision process, NFPA is set to host a free BESS Safety Summit in Denver, Colorado on February 7, 2018 where stakeholders can review, discuss and validate fire service tactics and best practices.
NFPA first identified firefighters’ vulnerability to ESS incidents after reviewing the U.S. Department of Energy’s “ESS Strategic Plan” in December 2014. The organization has been working collaboratively with a host of subject matter experts to provide information and knowledge to the fire service and others ever since.