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The casino resorts of Macau, in China, are among the world’s largest assembly spaces: more than 10 million square feet, in some cases.


Those facilities include hundreds of zones and tens of thousands of safety devices such as fire alarms, all of which must be evaluated as part of the commissioning and testing process for new buildings. The challenges associated with making sure those systems work as designed, and that the systems are able to communicate with each other in an emergency, expand as buildings grow from big to bigger to gargantuan.


Those challenges and how they are being met are the focus of “Managing Magnitude,” the cover story in the July/August NFPA Journal. Authors Robert Keough and David LeBlanc of Jensen Hughes share their experiences with an array of casino resorts in Macau and offer readers a handful of takeaways that can be applied to the commissioning and testing process for many types of “megaoccupancies.”


Keough and LeBlanc point to NFPA 3, Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, and NFPA 4, Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, as valuable tools to help fire commissioning agents manage the complex processes of commissioning and testing.


“Through our work in Macau we have identified important ground rules for each of the four project phases—planning, design, construction, and occupancy—that can help stakeholders avoid common mistakes related to commissioning,” they write. “With the trend of building big being embraced around the world, anyone involved in the commissioning process is urged to consider a handful of key practices that can effectively shape expectations and streamline the steps necessary to getting a facility up and running, on time and on budget.”

Nine-fold. That’s how great the increase was in residential battery energy storage system (ESS) installations from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018, according to PV Magazine. Homeowners are not the only ones going gaga over green technology. State officials and business leaders are also embracing the battery energy storage and solar systems that are revolutionizing our nation’s electrical infrastructure. All this innovation, however, can bring new hazards that emergency responders need to be well-versed on.


To address potential fire and life safety issues that may occur with solar and ESS technology in both housing and commercial settings, NFPA has updated and expanded its Energy Storage and Solar Safety Training for the fire service, with funding from FEMA. In 2015, FEMA funded NFPA’s initial efforts to develop first-of-its-kind ESS classroom training program for the fire service, and recently provided a second round of funding to update and expand the content with solar safety information and the latest in storage research findings.


The instructor-led course explores terminology, basic electrical theory, types of PV installations, battery chemistries (lead acid, lithium-ion, sodium sulfur, and flow batteries), as well as common applications they will be found in. Detailed guidance on handling failure modes and potential hazards associated with these technologies are covered, including pre-incident planning, systems shutdown, battery thermal runaway and re-ignition, ventilation, and other emergency response procedures. Fire service training officers are encouraged to participate in the training, then host classes locally to address the knowledge gaps surrounding alternative energy technology for first responders, AHJs and others in their area.


“We are increasingly seeing more high power battery energy storage systems comprised of hundreds or even thousands of smaller battery cells in our communities. These units connect together to create a much larger power supply capability, and are cropping up in large outdoor shipping containers, inside commercial buildings, at multi-family dwellings, and in residential homes,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said recently. “Our first responders and enforcers need to know about hazards including electrical shock, batteries exploding or reigniting, HAZMAT issues, and flammable toxic off-gassing so that they can keep themselves and others from harm.”


NFPA has been addressing the topics of ESS and solar safety for years via relevant educational sessions, research and content. NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, is slated to be released in 2020 and will help create more stringent ESS requirements nationally. The proposed standard will work alongside the new NEC Article 706. There were nearly 600 public inputs submitted on NFPA 855 last fall and more than 800 public comments were received during a recent comment phase, underscoring the strong interest in energy capture, distribution and storage.


For more information on the enhanced ESS and solar classroom training, contact NFPA. FEMA funds have also been earmarked to update NFPA’s self-paced online training with interactive 3D modeling, videos and quick reference materials by the beginning of 2019.

NFPA Regional Director Russ Sanders was honored with the 2018 Everett Hudiburg Award by the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Executive Board. The prestigious award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the training of firefighters, and is named after IFSTA publications Editor Everett Hudiburg. Sanders accepted the distinguished honor at the 2018 IFSTA Validation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma this past weekend.

   As NFPA’s regional manager for the central states, Sanders represents NFPA in Illinois,    Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Additionally,    he is the executive director of NFPA's Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, and serves as    the President of the United States Delegation to the International Association of Fire and    Rescue Services, an organization that represents fire professionals in more than 50    countries.


   The University of Louisville alumnus is well-known for being a subject matter expert (SME)    for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and their partner organizations and educational institutions, on structural firefighting and high-rise firefighting scientific research projects.. This work has guided response training and deployment decisions for fire departments throughout the United States. Prior to joining NFPA, Sanders was Chief of the Louisville Fire Department in Louisville, Kentucky.


On behalf of NFPA’s staff, heartfelt congratulations to Sanders for being recognized for his    unwavering commitment to improving and expanding training, and the enforcement of codes    and    performance standards.   


IFSTA could not have picked a better guy!    

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