NFPA offers energy storage systems fire safety resources, training

by Brianna Crandall — January 23, 2017 — As the world continues its shift towards renewable energy generation, energy storage systems (ESSs) are rapidly becoming a reality across the globe. ESSs capture energy for use at a later time and convert the energy for more convenient or economical storage forms; they are found in business facilities, high rises, and single-family and multi-unit residences across the country.

Facilities managers may not have thought through the special challenges that ESSs can present in terms of fire protection, but the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the first organization to offer an array of resources and training to help the U.S. fire service and others prepare for the new hazards that this emerging technology poses. NFPA’s Energy Storage System Safety Training Program includes self-paced online training, an instructor-led classroom course, an educational video series, and a quick reference guide designed to better prepare the fire service for ESS fire incidents.

Areas of focus include:

  • Energy storage system concepts including ESS applications, types, and terminology
  • Basic electrical theory, introduction to battery energy storage systems (including lead acid, lithium ion, sodium sulfur, and flow batteries), failure modes and hazards, pre-incident planning, emergency response procedures and more

ESS concepts and emergency response tactics are taught via interactive learning modules, videos, graphics, three-dimensional (3D) animations, simulations, and data review exercises so that first responders can:

  • Identify the various types of energy storage systems
  • Understand basic battery function and design
  • Recognize various failure modes and hazards associated with ESS
  • Conduct effective pre-incident planning
  • Pinpoint and operate emergency system disconnects
  • Execute mitigation and emergency response procedures including investigations and air monitoring
  • Respond to emergencies including electrolyte releases, overheated batteries, fires, and environmental events

University of California at San Diego Fire Marshall Charles Strickland commented:

Energy storage systems and new battery technology has far-outpaced our abilities to provide well-informed fire protection to these systems. There is a need for these resources and national standardized training.

In addition to developing the Energy Storage System Safety Training Program and other resources for the fire service, NFPA approved NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, earlier this year to address the design, construction, installation, and commissioning of ESSs. Other NFPA codes that relate to ESSs include NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, Article 706; NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapter 52; and NFPA 111, Standard on Stored Electrical Energy Emergency and Standby Power Systems.