The proliferation of solar power installations is adding a new twist to fire stations and fire fighting. Solar power is becoming a useful tool for providing low-cost, off-grid power for fire stations, lookouts, and other fire fighting operations, especially in remote locations. Fire departments are also beginning to train their personnel for the day when a typical call is likely as not to involve a structure with an on-site solar power system.
Solar Power and Fire Stations/Fire Trucks
A recent Department of Homeland Security report (pdf) recently identified fire stations as being among the many public facilities that are good candidates for community solar power installations. The report also cited solar power’s usefulness in remote rural locations, including parklands. This goes not only for firefighting-related buildings but for vehicles as well. Solar powered fire trucks are also coming into use, for example in California and Kansas. Aside from saving money on diesel fuel, solar power enables trucks to stay in the field longer between refueling, and it enables computers and other onboard equipment to keep running without idling the engine.
Solar Power and Fire Fighting
The same report also pointed up the need for fire departments to provide specialized training for dealing with fires at buildings with solar installations. Just as fire fighters are trained to deal with common hazards such as gas mains, propane tanks, household DIY supplies and onsite oil storage (to name a few), they will also need to prepare for dealing with solar installations.
Professionals Prepare for a Solar Future
As with any other electrical system or appliance, proper design, installation and maintenance are key starting points in fire prevention. The Homeland Security report notes that solar installations are not of special concern as a cause of fires, but they are a potential complication when a fire breaks out from other causes. Over the past several years, professional organizations for firefighters and the solar industry have been coordinating new standards, codes, and training classes that enable firefighters to respond efficiently and safely when a solar installation is at the site of a fire.
Greener Buildings, Safer Buildings
The fire safety collaboration on solar energy is just part of a much broader transition that emergency responders and the building industry are making together, as new systems, technologies and materials make their way into the mainstream. After all, aside from conserving energy, the driving force behind the green buildings movement is to enhance human health and safety.
Image: Fire truck by John Katz on flickr.com.
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