I am very excited to tell you about the newest endeavor we have started. Many of the training officers around me already knew that I would do a monthly group email to my list of training folks. Sharing what training outlines and such that I have developed for that month for my full-time job at City Of Greencastle Fire Department. Well recently I was talking with my good friend and training partner Christoper Huston of Engine Co. 22 about needing the ability to have a place where we could share all of our stuff and others instead of posting whatever was on my mind here at Green Maltese which was created to be a place to share and gain knowledge about modern building construction. So as a result of that conversion Christoper Huston has taking the idea and just out done himself with such a great site already.
SIPs is an acronym for Structural Insulated Panel. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are a high performance building system for residential and light commercial construction. The panels consist of an insulating rigid foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically oriented strand board (OSB). SIPs are manufactured under factory controlled conditions and can be fabricated to fit nearly any building design. The result is a building system that is extremely strong, energy efficient and cost effective.
Types of SIPs
There are three main types of SIPs, although the SIPs themselves can be encased in different outer materials called skins. The inner insulation core is usually made from expandable polystyrene (EPS), polyurethane or polyisocyanurate. Each delivers a strong, light building material with exceptional insulation properties.
Types of SIP skins
Most SIPs feature OSB as the skins that encompass the inner foam insulation core of the
panel. But other skins are available, including:
• Fiber cement
• Fiber reinforced concrete
• Gypsum board
The third component in SIPs is the spline or connector piece between SIP panels. Dimensional lumber is commonly used but creates thermal bridging and lowers insulation values. To maintain higher insulation values through the spline, manufacturers use Insulated Lumber, Composite Splines, Mechanical Locks, Overlapping OSB Panels, or other creative methods. Depending on the method selected, other advantages such as full nailing surfaces or increased structural strength may become available.
SIPs share the same structural properties as an I-beam or I-column. The rigid insulation core of the SIP acts as a web, while the OSB sheathing exhibits the same properties as the flanges. SIPs combine several components of conventional building, such as studs and joists, insulation, vapor barrier and air barrier. They can be used for many different applications, such as exterior wall, roof, floor and foundation systems.
SIPs are GREEN
Structural insulated panels (SIPs)are one of the most airtight and well insulated building systems available, making them an inherently green product. An airtight SIP building will use less energy to heat and cool, allow for better control over indoor environmental conditions, and reduce construction waste.
Why you will see SIPs more than ever before!
As you have saw from the information above there are several types of SIPs and many types of skins however as mentioned before the most common is Oriented Strand Board (OSB) as the skin and the core made of Expanded Polystyrene Foam. So I am going to focus on concerns with those two materials.
Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
This material begins to break down at relatively low temperatures for fire conditions (about 450 F – same as sawn wood) and it is now a major structural component and not just a covering.
The adhesives used in OSB can vary by manufacturer. It appears that the wood components will burn before the adhesives in most cases. The wood will start to burn at about 450 F and the adhesives around 750 F. The manufactures state that the OSB will behave like sawn wood in a fire, which may be true, but it is the thickness (mass) that then becomes the problem, as OSB is usually no more than ¾” thick and usually less.
Although the manufactures state that the products of combustion are no worse than natural wood, some of the materials in the adhesives may be extremely toxic, corrosive, or carcinogens.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)
When heated it melts!
Expanded Polystyrene is combustible.
It should not be exposed to flame or other ignition sources
Flash Point: 600°°F to 650°F
Auto-ignition Temperature: 824F – 914°F
Fire and Explosion Hazards: WILL MELT WHEN EXPOSED TO TEMPERATURES OF 300F TO 500F
Extinguishing Media: DRY CHEMICAL (ABC TYPES), CO2, WATER SPRAY, WATER FOG, FOAM, WATER
Unusual Fire and Explosion Hazards: Pentane vapors may be emitted from freshly expanded or processed foam or when product is heated. Hazardous concentrations may accumulate inside a sealed container or within confined areas. If ignited, there may be a very high rate of flame propagation and/or an associated explosion.
Hazardous Combustion Products: Burning foam emits a dense, black, irritating smoke with acid gases. Primary combustion products are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and styrene.
Special Firefighting Procedures: SCBA & Full PPE
Click the links below to watch a crude parking lot burn test:
I am very excited to post about my recent visit to observe a day of test burns that are a part of the Vertical Ventilation study being conducted by UL.
I want to first say a special thanks to Steve Kerber, Christopher Hasbrook,Bob Backstrom and Chief Peter Van Dorpe for allowing me to experience so many wonderful things they do to make the fire service safer.
This post is only to share my experience with you. It is not meant to be a report because it was only one day of many tests that UL are conducting to produce the report on Impact of Vertical Ventilation for the fire service.
United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program funded Underwriters Laboratories to conduct these test to examine fire service ventilation practices as well as the impact of changes in modern house geometries.
There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades. These changes include larger homes, more open floor plans and volumes and increased synthetic fuel loads. This series of experiments examine this change in fire behavior and the impact on firefighter ventilation tactics.
Test 1: on 2/7/2012
Was conducted in single story legacy ranch home. The fire was started in a coffee pot and then got into cabinets and was allowed to flashover. The door was then opened and after few minutes water was applied from straight stream at the door for 10 seconds and with fog nozzle. The purpose of water application was to see if a post flashover fire could be pushed out of kitchen down hallway. NO Fire was pushed in this test however there has been 7 test before and still one more to go. All the data will have to be analyzed before this can be confirmed.
Other things tested was 5 different smoke detectors, visibility on exit lights in smoke and they also examined activation time versus time needed to evacuate determined by temperature, gas concentration and smoke obscuration.
Test 2 on 2/7/2012
Two story modern home with open concept design. This fire was started in a trash can in upstairs bedroom and allowed to grow (it did not flashover due to the lack of oxygen) then the bedroom window was taken and it transitioned to flashover and later the front door was opened. The open door allowed for a flow up through the foyer to the bedroom window which intensified the fire and allowed it to burn at the door to the room and the window of the room, resulting in a higher heat release. The vertical ventilation hatch was opened and this seemed to localize the fire but UL will have to examine the data and videos before they can conclude anything. This test was a good example of multiple types of ventilation being coordinated and the hose stream application from the outside quickly knocked the fire.
Note my videos are amateur and shot on just a 35 mm camera so excuse my shaking hand LOL
Once again this post is only about my experience on 2/7/2012 which is only part of the study that is being conducted. So I am looking forward to Steve Kerber and his group to releasing the full report.
I would first like to say that the use of the following article is not meant to be an armchair quarterback or to be critical of the department involved. However I do feel it can be a learning opportunity for us, to at least review some basics of having a search plan.
A man died in a blaze after four firefighters failed to spot him during two searches of a burning building, an inquest heard today. Danny Holt, 33, collapsed in his lounge after a chip pan caught fire – but the emergency services failed to spot him. Both groups of firefighters assumed the other had searched the room in Eccles, Greater Manchester.
The most important ingredient of a successful search is the search plan. An organized and coordinated search plan will help reduce some of the risk and increase your chances of giving you and the victims you are searching for the greatest chance of survival.
.The first step of a successful plan will begin with a good search size-up. This should actually begin upon receipt of receiving the alarm. The following are few factors that should be considered.
Staffing (determines what you can or can’t accomplish)
Time of Day
Building Construction Features: ( Windows -Doors-Age of the construction)
Once you have considered these factors and any other information that was available upon arrival. You can start to put your plan into action.
Where do you begin your search?
Searching for life should begin upon entry such as behind doors or under windows in VES. A lot of text books will say start closest to the fire however this is not always possible and I feel that you should target area of high probability of victims, such as areas close to front door since they exit that area most of the time it become habit or close to windows. As mentioned above, the time of day will be a big part of where the victim will probably be in the building.
Once you have chosen the place to begin searching. You must start orientating yourself to that room.
¨ Identify your location in the structure based on contents (furniture, beds, fixtures, type of flooring material, etc.)
¨ Leave a hand light at the door as a beacon to the exit
¨ Where the door is hinged? Interior doors opening out indicate closets or small spaces (or basements)
¡ Probe into a space with a tool before entering to determine size of the space
¨ Outside walls= windows = escape routes!
Is a systematic, fast-moving search of the building and should target areas of high victim probably but not stop there. This search is not complete until every area has been covered rapidly. This search should be done with at least two people. Firefighters should be very aware of their situation and use one of the following methods of orientation while conducting this rapid search while the fire is not under control.
Walls/Building features specific to the occupancy
Thermal Imaging Camera
The secondary search should be much more thorough and conducted slower as to leave nothing unturned or unchecked. This search should be conducted by a different crew than the one that conducted the primary search so you have a fresh body and set of eyes that will not overlook anything. Beware that by this stage, the fire should have either been extinguished or destroyed much of the area and victims may be covered by fallen debris. Once this search has been completed throughout the entire building above and below then the structure is actually all clear.
Also keep your guard up and beware that many toxic gases still exist in the secondary and overhaul stages. SCBA should be worn until the atmosphere can be deemed safe from CO and HCN.
Note: This video is not from the article mentioned above.
In light of the recent event mentioned in the article above let’s refresh on some of these basics and get off the couch to do some search and rescue training with your crews so you are not the next headline!
When was the last time you had a fire behavior class?
If you were honest it has probably been several years and most likely half of the class slept or paid very little attention because most firefighters like hands on drills were they can tear up stuff.
Those that have done fire behavior training recently what materials did you use? Because there has been major changes to fire development in the modern fire environment and most text books have not caught up.
Hopefully this post will help bring a lot of new material from UL , NIST and many other places together in a post that firefighters can use to train their next shift.
Fire Dynamics is the study of how chemistry, fire science, material science and the mechanical engineering disciplines of fluid mechanics and heat transfer interact to influence fire behavior. In other words, Fire Dynamics is the study of how fires start, spread and develop. But what exactly is a fire?
Fire can be described in many ways – here are a few:
NFPA 921: “A rapid oxidation process, which is a chemical reaction resulting in the evolution of light and heat in varying intensities.”
Webster’s Dictionary: “A fire is an exothermic chemical reaction that emits heat and light”
Fire can also be explained in terms of the Fire Tetrahedron – a geometric representation of what is required for fire to exist, namely, fuel, an oxidizing agent, heat, and an uninhibited chemical reaction.
Heat Energy is a form of energy characterized by vibration of molecules and capable of initiating and supporting chemical changes and changes of state (NFPA 921). Heat energy is measured in units of Joules (J), however it can also be measured in Calories (1 Calorie = 4.184 J) and BTU’s (1 BTU = 1055 J).
Temperature is a measure of the degree of molecular activity of a material compared to a reference point. Temperature is measured in degrees Fahrenheit (melting point of ice = 32 º F, boiling point of water = 212 º F) or degrees Celsius (melting point of ice = 0 º C, boiling point of water = 100 º C).
Normal human oral/body temperature
Human skin begins to feel pain
Human skin receives a second degree burn injury
Human skin is instantly destroyed
Water boils and produces steam
Glass transition temperature of polycarbonate
Melting temperature of polycarbonate(Mask)
Charring of modern protective clothing fabrics begins
Temperatures inside a post-flashover room fire
Heat transfer is a major factor in the ignition, growth, spread, decay and extinction of a fire. It is important to note that heat is always transferred from the hotter object to the cooler object - heat energy transferred to and object increases the object’s temperature, and heat energy transferred from and object decreases the object’s temperature.
Conduction is heat transfer within solids or between contacting solids.
courtesy of NIST
courtesy of NIST
Convection is heat transfer by the movement of liquids or gasses.
courtesy of NIST (convection on firefighter)
Radiation is heat transfer by electromagnetic waves.
courtesy of NIST (Radiation on the firefighter)
Fire Development is a function of many factors including: fuel properties, fuel quantity, ventilation (natural or mechanical), compartment geometry (volume and ceiling height), location of fire, and ambient conditions (temperature, wind, etc).
Traditional Fire Development The Traditional Fire Development curve shows the time history of a fuel limited fire. In other words, the fire growth is not limited by a lack of oxygen. As more fuel becomes involved in the fire, the energy level continues to increase until all of the fuel available is burning (fully developed). Then as the fuel is burned away, the energy level begins to decay. The key is that oxygen is available to mix with the heated gases (fuel) to enable the completion of the fire triangle and the generation of energy.
Fire Behavior in a StructureThe Fire Behavior in a Structure curve demonstrates the time history of a ventilation limited fire. In this case the fire starts in a structure which has the doors and windows closed. Early in the fire growth stage there is adequate oxygen to mix with the heated gases, which results in flaming combustion. As the oxygen level within the structure is depleted, the fire decays, the heat release from the fire decreases and as a result the temperature decreases. When a vent is opened, such as when the fire department enters a door, oxygen is introduced. The oxygen mixes with the heated gases in the structure and the energy level begins to increase. This change in ventilation can result in a rapid increase in fire growth potentially leading to a flashover (fully developed compartment fire) condition.
Changes in Today’s fires:
Modern Building Construction + More Plastics = Extreme Fire Behavior
Did you notice that fire development has changed? There is early decay now! We as firefighters need to share this with all firefighters especially ones that havn’t been to fire behavior class in some time.
Energy Efficient Modern Building Construction:
Properly installed and inspected insulation in floors, walls, and attics ensures consistent temperatures with less energy use. The result is lower utility costs and a quieter, more comfortable home.
High Performance Windows
Energy-efficient windows use advanced technologies to keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer. They also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furnishings.
Tight Construction and Ducts Homebuilders Making a Difference:
Advanced techniques for sealing holes and cracks in a home’s “envelope” and in heating and cooling ducts help reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, pests, and noise. A tightly sealed home improves comfort and indoor air quality while lowering utility and maintenance costs.
The tactical considerations include:
Stages of fire development:The stages of fire development change when a fire becomes ventilation limited.
It is common with today’s fire environment to have a decay period prior to flashover which emphasizes the importance of ventilation
Forcing the front door is ventilation: Forcing entry has to be thought of as ventilation as well.
While forcing entry is necessary to fight the fire it must also trigger the thought that air is being fed to the fire and the clock is ticking before either the fire gets extinguished or it grows until an untenable condition exists jeopardizing the safety of everyone in the structure.
No smoke showing:A common event during the experiments was that once the fire became ventilation limited the smoke being forced out of the gaps of the houses greatly diminished or stopped all together.
No some showing during size-up should increase awareness of the potential conditions inside.
Coordination: If you add air to the fire and don’t apply water in the appropriate time frame the fire gets larger and safety decreases.
DON’T FORCE DOOR UNTILL YOU HAVE A CHARGED HOSELINE IN PLACE!
Photo from UL study for Firefighter Safety and Photovoltaic Systems
What are the safety hazards with PV?
What tactics should be used at fires with PV present?
How do I secure utilities on a PV system?
These are just a few questions you should pose to every firefighter next shift or training meeting.
Photovoltaic (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect.
Total global solar energy capacity averaged 40 percent annual growth from 2000 to 2010; grid-connected solar photovoltaic capacity grew 50 percent per year for much of this time. This growth increases the potential of a fire department response to a building with PV, irrespective of the PV being involved with the initiation of the fire event. This growth increases the potential of a fire department response to a building with PV, irrespective of the PV being involved with the initiation of the fire event.
What are the safety hazards with PV?
Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program – Fire Prevention and Safety Grants, Underwriters Laboratories (UL)this study examines electrical and fire performance experiments were conducted to identify and quantify the electrical shock hazard that may be present to firefighters during the suppression, ventilation, and overhaul activities associated with a building or structure fire involving the presence of PV equipment. The scope of these experiments included:
Water for Fire Suppression During Firefighting Activites with PV
Shock Hazard Due to the Direct Contact with Energized Components
Emergency Disconnect and Disruption Techniques
Severing of Conductors
Shock Hazard from Damaged PV Modules and Systems
PV Power During Low Ambient Light, Artificial Light, and Light from a Fire
Potential Shock Hazard from Fire Damaged PV Components and Systems
What tactics should be used at fires with PV present?
In this study tactical considerations for PV include:
Shock hazard due to the presence of water and PV power during suppression activities
Shock hazard due to the direct contact with energized components during firefighting operations
Emergency disconnect and disruption techniques
Severing of conductors
Assessment of PV power during low ambient light, artificial light and light from a fire
Assessment of potential shock hazard from damaged PV modules and systems.
For more information about this project please see:
Every Incident Commander,Company Officer and firefighter will greatly enhance there safety by taking this online class. UL has developed an online interactive training module. The program includes a professionally narrated description of all of the experiments, their results and the tactical considerations. Experimental video is used and graphical data is explained in a way that brings science to the street level firefighter.
And John Shafer
Lieutenant and Training Officer, Greencastle (IN) Fire Department
Today’s buildings and occupancies continue to present unique challenges to command and operating companies during combat structural fire engagement. Building and occupancy profiling, identifying occupancy risk versus occupancy type, emerging construction methods, features, systems and components coupled with the increasing commonality of extreme fire behavior and the increased fire load package require new skill sets in reading the building and implementing predictive occupancy profiling for firefighters, company and command officers. Integral to the presentation will be detailed discussions on building and structural system placarding methods and labeling programs.
This course offers a concentrated examination of current and future trends and methods in green building construction. Discussion will emphasize green construction building materials, green rating systems, modern building construction methods, risk assessment, engineered structural and construction systems, and their direct relationship on structural firefighting operations, firefighter survivability and the command decision-making process. We will also consider:
Inherent green construction features and hazards that directly influence effective command risk management
Decisive strategic and tactical considerations with a focus on key green construction features and inherent occupancy profiles
The effect of fire dynamics, fire behavior and tactical operations on modern building construction systems
When: Sunday, October 22 – 1:30p – 3:00p
There will be many other excellant classes offered this weekend and you don’t want to miss this!
This post is not about a normal subjects I write about here on Green Maltese and hope you don’t mind? I am off the Green Building subject just a little, but I am also working on helping Capt. Jim Silvernail with a potential search chapter for his Suburban Fire Tactics book and I just taught a search class last week so I have search on the brain. LOL
Grocery Store Search
Have you ever thought about how you would search your local grocery store? Or better yet have you ever trained on how you would search it?
Almost every small town or suburb has at least one or two grocery stores simply because we all must EAT! Out of the first two questions just asked , I would say most have thought about it but very few have trained on it because it not a everyday occasion that we have a grocery store fire.
Grocery Store Layout:
If you are ever are faced with searching a grocery store you need to divide the store into two areas and that is based on where is the probability of the most life? The two highest life hazard areas would be the front cash register area and the back
stockroom areas. Since the front of the store is usually further than 150 feet from the back stockroom most likely you are going to have another crew be assigned to search that area based on air management point of no return.
Now that we have divided this search operations into two areas let’s focus on the first search crews responsibly. The 1st search crew is going to enter the front of the store at the front door. Search should began immediately since that was the entrance 90 percent of the occupants entered and that will be the one they will go for in the event of a fire. In most of small town America the staffing available will not likely allow you another team to begin fire attack simultaneously so your search could possibly be done with a hoseline that will greatly slow you down, and should be trained on as well.
After the first crew has search the front door lobby area they need to proceed to the cash resister aisles and have the searcher search in between the registers and have the officer or nozzleperson depending on staffing. Be in front of the registers and be oriented to conditions of the fire and their location and the safety and of the searches. Once this area is cleared the search team has two options.
Standard Search (right/left hand wall search)
Most people would pick number one option because it is all they have ever done and never trained on aisle search. However we as firefighters need to cover as much area as fast as we can, because we only have about a 20 min work time due to SCBA. Option 1 would not allow us to cover more area in the short amount of work time.
My pick would be aisle search because my crew is the only chance someone has of living therefore I want to cover the most area I can.
This is accomplished by starting at the end of the aisle by having one searcher start at the beginning of the aisle on the right side searching (sweeping) as they maintain contact to the right side and search till the end of the aisle then move across the aisle to the left side and follow it up searching till they reach the front where the officer or nozzleperson will be. While searcher 1 is on one aisle you can have searcher 2 do the same thing on the aisle next to it. This way your small crew is searching two aisles for the time it would take for one aisle under option #1, and the officer is at the front of aisle oriented to conditions and safety.
If the first crew is able to have enough air to search the aisle area of the store then they should exist after they have notified command of all clear or primary search of store area complete. Because they will not have enough air to began searching the
rear stockroom areas.
2nd due or 2nd search crew
Now depending on staffing and if other fireground objectives are getting attended to then the 2nd search crew will began their search from the rear of the structure. The stockroom of most grocery stores are very cut up and usually have stuff stacked
up everywhere which can be very demanding and dangerous to firefighters therefore this should be done with hoseline for protect and to maintain orientation to the outside. These searches will be more time consuming.
Hopefully now that we have addressed an occupancy, that is in almost every town in America. You will train on how you would handle searching a grocery. Next time your crew goes to buy food for tonight dinner take your whole crew and at least discuss
how you would search it as you are walking through it. The key to any successful search is knowing what occupancy you are searching and using key features such as layout to your advantage to cover as much area as fast as you can safety.
Green Maltese LLC is proud to annouce a new class offering.
Modern Roofs the Truckie Nightmare
The presentation will include an intense and concentrated examination of trends and methods in modern building construction with an emphasis on roofs, their direct relationship on vertical ventilation, structural firefighting operations, and firefighter survivability.
Inherent roof construction features and hazards that directly influence truck company work will be the main focus of this program.
Program Overview and Pedagogical Approach
The program will address timely issues related to modern roofs and upcoming push to make sustainable buildings.
This presentation will examine various green roofs, methods and exotic materials that are used to achieve green standards, and the potential hazards that they present to fire service personnel. Many of these materials such as recycled rubber shingles, solar panels and green (garden) roofs are not common knowledge to most fire service personnel due to past and current teaching practices that only address traditional building construction for the fire service.
This ground breaking and informative program will utilize extensive multimedia materials to reinforce course content and subject areas.
If the fire service can significantly increase proficiencies in green building knowledge and equate that to other fundamental operational aspects in structural fire operations, there would be a direct enhancement to firefighter safety through injury and LODD reductions in the future.
• Enable the student to identify the unique characteristics with the various modern roof construction types and recognize features that have significant impacts on firefighter safety.
• Enable the student to recognize specific green building construction features and their inherent risk factors.
• Enable the student to be aware of the green(garden) roofs and how they affect buildings in their jurisdiction.
• Inform the student of new roofing materials, such as recycled rubber tires shingles to achieve sustainability that could affect the way buildings react in a fire situation
• Make the student aware of current and future changes in building construction methods that will affect the tactics used in structural firefighting
Pictures of a few modern roof hazards:
Photo couresty of Molly Meyer LLC
Photo couresty of Molly Meyer LLC
Recycled Rubber Tire Shingles
Contact to discuss specific program needs and content. Content, focus, duration and presentation format can all be customized to meet with venue needs.
I have been having computer troubles so haven’t posted in awhile. So this will be a short post about remodeling your home green. It will consist of two videos. Please enjoy and think about how the following building materials used will change fire behavior and your tactics. Feel free to comment and start discussion.
Solar shingles are solar panels incognito. Instead of mounting on your roof, they become your roof or integrate seamlessly with the existing roof shingles. In many cases, they can be stapled to the sub-roofing the same as an ordinary shingle. On average, shingles are about 12 inches wide by seven feet long. There are also solar roof tiles that integrate well with mission-style housing common in the sunny Southwest. Solar shingles, like most thin-film BIPV products currently on the market, are less efficient than silicon solar panels. But, again like other Building Integrated Photovoltaic ( BIPV )innovations, are a burgeoning work in progress.
Until now, solar energy’s two challenges have been cost and acceptance. Dow is working to change all that. Dow has been developing BIPV building materials that enable solar energy cells to be incorporated directly into the design of commercial and residential building materials such as roofing systems, exterior sidings, fascias and more.
The DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle delivers true building-integrated aesthetics by integrating PV functionality into an asphalt roof-shingle form factor. It utilizes high-efficiency, CIGS-based, PV cells manufactured on a flexible substrate. These cells are laminated and subsequently over-molded into the final shingle design using conventional materials and polymer processing methods. Dow’s groundbreaking technology integrates low-cost thin-film photovoltaic cells into a roofing shingle design, which represents a multi-functional solar module. The innovative product design reduces installation costs because the conventional roofing shingles and solar generating shingles are installed simultaneously.
Consumer Report Video:
The challenge of harnessing the sun’s energy
The sun is everywhere. So why isn’t solar power everywhere? Passive solar power is. It lights our rooms when we open the blinds in the morning and it melts the snow on a sunny day. But converting solar energy into electricity that can be used to power appliances or generate heat has traditionally required overcoming challenges, including:
High system costs
Limited solar cell efficiencies
Grid connection issues
Building code acceptance
Time consuming installations
Solar Power Is More Affordable Than Ever
In addition to being easy to install, solar shingles are more affordable than you think. Everyone in the U.S. qualifies for a 30% federal tax credit. These credits are still available, plus there may be state and local incentives in your area to make your initial costs even lower. Not to mention what you will save on your electric bills once your house is making its own energy.
Could you see this at night? Beware of Slip/Trip hazards
A photovoltaic system generates electricity when the sun is shining, and when it is receiving sunlight it is operational and generating electricity. This creates additional challenges for the fireground task of shutting off the utilities and the electrical power in the structure that could be a dangerous source of electric shock.
The batteries can maintain electrical current at nighttime and when the rest of the system has been isolated, thus presenting an additional electric shock hazard. Further, depending on the types of batteries, they can present leakage and hazardous materials concerns, and special attention is required for any battery storage systems that have been damaged in a fire.
If solar power components are involved in a fire, care should be taken to avoid exposure to the products of combustion due to the somewhat unusual materials involved. In addition to inhalation concerns, dermal exposure from solar power system materials damaged by fire should also be handled with caution regardless of the type of solar power system.
Another common hazard regardless of the type of solar power system is the potential flame spread characteristics of the modules, such as from an adjacent exposing building fire or an approaching wildland fire. The components exposed to sunshine and other exterior elements of weather need to have highly durable characteristics, and certain materials that have traditionally performed well in this regard (i.e., certain types of plastics), do not necessarily have good fire-resistant characteristics. Further work is needed to clarify the fire resistance and fire spread characteristics of these panels.
FIREFIGHTER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Daytime = Danger; Nightime = Beware of your scene lighting
Inform IC that a PV system is present
Securing the main electrical does not shut down the PV modules
Cover all PV modules with 100 percent light-blocking materials to stop electrical generation
Do not break, remove, or walk on PV modules, and stay away from modules, components, and conduit
“Components are always hot!” The single most critical message of emergency response personnel is to always consider photovoltaic systems and all their components as electrically energized. The inability to power-down photovoltaic panels exposed to sunlight makes this an obvious hazard during the daytime, but it is also a potential concern at nighttime for systems equipped with battery storage.
• Operate normally, but don’t touch. Fire service personnel should follow their normal tactics and strategies at structure fires involving solar power systems, but do so with awareness and understanding of exposure to energized electrical equipment. Emergency response personnel should operate normally, and approach this subject area with awareness, caution, and understanding to assure that conditions are maintained as safely as possible.
Size-up, identify and validate hazard . Accurate knowledge of the hazards present on the fireground is essential for minimizing personnel injuries. Identifying the type and extent of a solar power system during the emergency event size-up is critical to properly addressing the hazards they present. In particular, it is important to distinguish between a solar thermal system and a photovoltaic system, and the hazards presented by each type of system.
• Stress key message for tactical approach (especially large commercial systems) . The tactical approach to solar power equipment in a building with a structure fire needs to be stressed with all fireground personnel (i.e., stay clear). Serious injury can occur with equipment such as photovoltaics on a sunny day, and the danger to fire service personnel is real and deserves attention. Of paramount concern are large commercial photovoltaic systems that generate significant levels of electricity and can create daunting strategic challenges for fire fighters as they are trying to address a building fire.
• Leave the scene in a safe condition . Emergency response personnel address and mitigate hazards, and turn the scene back over the owners and/or occupants after the scene is stabilized. They need to be aware of unanticipated dangers and leave the scene in a safe condition. An example would be a photovoltaic solar power system damaged during a nighttime fire, which once exposed to sunlight, begins to generate electricity and creates a shock hazard or re-kindling of the fire.