First responders, facility managers, AHJs, designers, and members of the building community packed the NFPA Energy & Solar Safety Training for the Fire Service at NFPA’s Conference & Expo pilot session in Las Vegas. Although NFPA’s new training is geared toward educating first responders and keeping them safe as innovative technologies emerge, it is clear that a myriad of professionals have a vested interest in learning about the potential hazards associated with ESS, photovoltaics (PV), and other alternative power sources.
Utility companies, business owners, and consumers are increasingly drawn to energy storage technology for a variety of reasons including:
- backup capabilities that are especially important for continuity when the power goes out;
- the prospect of cost-savings and storing energy for off-peak hours;
- the ability to support and share the power being generated by other renewable resources including hydropower;
- and the inter-connectivity of systems.
This keen interest prompted NFPA to take steps to update its three year old ESS training for first responders. The new module, which will debut later this summer, was funded by FEMA (they also provided support back in 2015 when NFPA first introduced ESS training to help the nation’s 1.1 million firefighters mitigate risk and respond to hazards).
Ron Butler, a former Detroit firefighter and president of Energy Storage Safety Products International, conducted the four-hour session beginning with an introduction to ESS and solar energy, an overview of key terminology, and some basic electrical information. He then spoke about different energy storage systems including lead acid, lithium ion, sodium sulfur and flow battery before explaining various PV technology such as monocrystalline, polycrystalline (mono/poly SI), thin film amorphous and concentrated PV cell (CVP) systems. Once the audience had a sense of the new and varied technology being used today in commercial and residential settings, Butler used videos, animation, case studies and best practices to demonstrate the ways that the fire service should handle failure modes and respond to dangerous incidents. This part of the training was highly interactive with audience members providing input and asking questions about pre-incident planning, thermal runaway, re-ignition, ventilation, air quality, emergency response, and disconnecting strategies.
NFPA’s updated ESS and Solar training helps practitioners properly identify the presence of PV and battery energy storage systems. Those that take the training will emerge with an understanding of the different types of battery chemistries and their related hazards; how to implement proper response procedures based on the type of incident; an understanding of the two common applications for energy storage systems and four types of energy storage systems; and knowledge about pairing photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage systems (ESS).
As was evidenced during the training rebirth in Vegas, NFPA’s updated ESS and solar training for the fire service provides a strong educational overview of today’s alternative fuel technology, proper mitigation practices, and the best ways to respond to fire and life safety hazards that often come with innovation.