Imagine you’re a firefighter. It’s 16:00 and your fire company has just been dispatched to a residential kitchen fire. You arrive on the scene and notice solar panels on the roof. Are you prepared?

What are your concerns? If the fire spreads to the roof, can you apply water to energized solar panels? Do you know how to safely shut the system off?

Exponential growth in solar means more firefighters are increasingly coming into contact with solar installations when responding to emergencies. In recent weeks, IREC and partners – the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) – launched the first of 30 in-person training opportunities for firefighters to become solar smarter, so they are confident making swift, safe decisions in an emergency situation where solar technology is present.

From the first in-person training, held during the Fire Rescue East Conference in Daytona Beach, Florida, comes very positive feedback.

“This training was great. We can take what we learned and immediately put those skills to work,” said Jim Reynolds, a member of the City of Bradenton Fire Department.

Also in partnership with the IAFF, IREC created a unique, interactive online solar training specifically for firefighters in 2016, with 14 scenario-based video tutorials. The free-of-charge online format, available through the IAFF’s website, makes the training very accessible, so more firefighters learn about responding to solar-equipped structures, whether or not they are able to participate in a live training workshop.

More than 300,000 firefighters nationwide now have access to these new solar training opportunities through IREC’s partnership with the IAFF and NASFM, and through the support of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. 

Derek Alkonis, of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, has this to say about the impact of the firefighter training: “PV systems are becoming more prevalent in our communities and firefighters need to understand how to safely work around them. This program provides awareness to the hazards and the operational procedures required to shut down the systems safely . . . and will benefit firefighters around the world.” 

Image: Matt Paiss, San Jose Fire Department