NFPA Updates Energy Storage Systems Training Material

First responders may encounter hazmat issues, thermal runaway concerns, battery explosion and re-ignition, and off-gassing when responding to fires involving energy storage and photovoltaic equipment.

The National Fire Protection Association has updated its online training material for the fire service on energy storage systems and solar equipment, including in it new technology insights, relevant research, and expanded solar considerations. According to the association, ESS and photovoltaic systems (PV) for both commercial and residential settings are surging in popularity, which underscores the need for clear, current fire protection and suppression guidance for first responders.

First responders may encounter hazmat issues, thermal runaway concerns, battery explosion and re-ignition, and off-gassing when responding to fires involving this equipment.

NFPA's self-paced online Energy Storage and Solar Systems Safety Training, Fire Service Edition was underwritten by the Federal Emergency Management Agency initially in 2015 and again recently. The enhanced three-hour module, which is free to the fire service, uses videos, animations, simulations, and review exercises to inform firefighters about basic electrical theory, types of PV installations, battery chemistries, and response strategies. NFPA says fire leaders and training personnel are encouraged to educate themselves and others within their purview on ESS failure modes, pre-incident planning, shutdown, ventilation, and other emergency response considerations, and that, upon successful completion of the training, students will receive a certificate.

"By all accounts, alternative energy use in the United States will continue to grow, with states including Massachusetts, Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii mandating widespread energy storage system deployment. We can't let technology outpace safety," said NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley. "It is critical that fire officers, trainers, firefighters, and AHJs are well-versed on ESS and solar emergency preparedness and response, for their own safety and the safety of others."

In addition to responder training, NFPA has been developing a new standard to establish criteria to minimize hazards associated with ESS. NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, will be published in 2019. It will work in concert with the new National Electrical Code Article 706.

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