NFPA Expands Energy Storage and Solar Safety Training

Updated training addresses potential fire and life safety hazards that may occur with solar and ESS technology in both housing and business settings.

The National Fire Protection Association has updated and expanded its Energy Storage and Solar Safety Training for the fire service, with funding from FEMA. NFPA announced this July 18, noting that the number of residential battery energy storage system installs during the first quarter of 2018 increased ninefold over 2017 Q1 figures.

Because of strong commercial and consumer interest, as well as government incentives, first responders are more likely to encounter emergency calls involving ESS or photovoltaics (PV). To help the fire service handle the unique challenges associated with these rapidly growing energy systems, FEMA funded NFPA’s efforts in 2015 to develop the world’s first ESS training program for first responders, and NFPA last year received another FEMA grant to update and expand its program to include solar safety and the latest in energy storage research findings.

The enhanced ESS classroom training covers terminology, basic electrical theory, types of PV installations, battery chemistries (lead acid, lithium-ion, sodium sulfur, and flow batteries), and common applications where they will be found. The four-hour course provides detailed guidance on handling failure modes and potential hazards associated with these technologies, including pre-incident planning, systems shutdown, battery thermal runaway and re-ignition, ventilation, and other emergency response procedures. FEMA funding has also been earmarked to enhance NFPA’s self-paced online training with interactive 3D modeling, videos, and quick reference materials by the beginning of 2019.

“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,” said NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley. “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.”