NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE FIRE MARSHALS
A Strong United Voice for Fire Prevention
A newly launched, three-year project, supported by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, will bring together NASFM and a group of diverse stakeholders to identify and develop solutions to solar and solar-plus-storage code enforcement and permitting challenges.
The project builds upon and will significantly expand the work of the Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC), an organization founded in California in 2015 as a forum for collaboration on guidelines for implementation of codes and standards for permitting and inspection practices of renewable energy systems. SEAC brings together authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs)—such as local building and fire departments, contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, utilities, testing labs and other clean energy stakeholders for collaboration and problem solving related to solar PV installation and energy storage projects.
Under the recent U.S. Energy Department award, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) will lead the administration of SEAC and facilitate its expansion into a national forum. Other key partners in the project include the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), International Code Council (ICC), UL LLC, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), , Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), U.S. Energy Storage Association (ESA) and California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA).
The project will facilitate improvements in the permitting and inspection of solar and solar-plus-storage projects by developing consensus-based solutions to high-priority codes and standards needs. An analysis will be conducted to determine the gaps in understanding and implementation that complicate code enforcement and can deter clean energy deployment. A consensus process will then be used to develop solutions. The project will also develop a website hosting information on clean energy code and permitting best practices and include extensive outreach to facilitate uptake of these practices.
Clear and comprehensive procedures defining permitting, inspection and other requirements for solar and solar-plus-storage projects are essential to ensure the safety and quality of installed systems. By identifying and addressing unmet needs in this area the project will advance public safety objectives. Additionally, by facilitating awareness and adoption of codes and standards best practices, the project will help reduce the non-hardware “soft costs” of solar and energy storage, thus supporting greater adoption.
“With over 20,000 local jurisdictions in the U.S. that issue permits and inspect PV systems, a consensus-based process to enhance related codes and standards is a powerful opportunity to facilitate greater deployment of solar and energy storage,” said IREC President and CEO, Larry Sherwood. “This initiative is unique in providing an open forum for all stakeholders to collaborate on these issues and IREC is honored to act as the program administrator.”
“The National Association of State Fire Marshals is pleased to partner with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the Sustainable Energy Action Committee and others on this important project to help provide information on enforcement and permitting solutions for solar and solar-plus-storage projects,” said Philip Oakes, NASFM National Program Director. “This project will help address a critical need for State Fire Marshals, AHJs, fire and emergency services, industry and many others in this rapidly growing field.”
"As a founding member of the Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC), to me, there is nothing more exciting than uniting AHJs in one common cause," said R. Steven Jones, Assistant Building Official for the City of Oceanside, California. "I am proud to be part of SEAC's work with industry stakeholders and AHJs to promote safe solar photovoltaic installations and regional consistency."
“The City of Bakersfield is excited to be a partner in this project as it launches,” said Pete Jackson, Chief Electrical Inspector, Building Department of the City of Bakersfield and SEAC Steering Committee Member. “As one of the busiest jurisdictions in the nation for installation of renewable energy systems and a founding member of SEAC, Bakersfield looks forward to using its experience to develop consensus-based recommendations to benefit the safe and efficient installation of sustainable energy systems.”
“The adoption and implementation of building codes and standards plays a major role in supporting community resilience,” said Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims. “The International Code Council is proud to collaborate on this important project that reinforces critical code compliance efforts across the U.S.”
“In order for solar to supply 20% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030, we’re going to need to work through longstanding code and enforcement challenges,” said Evelyn Butler, Senior Director of Codes and Standards at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This network will provide a space for the solar industry to proactively work together, resulting in market-friendly and efficient standards for the companies that will ultimately follow this guidance. We’re excited to see the SEAC project expand and look forward to working with our members to participate in this important forum.”
"We are looking forward to this collaboration," said Benjamin Davis, Policy Associate with the California Solar & Storage Association. "Streamlining permitting can go a long way to safely lower soft costs, allowing more customers to go solar and reap the benefits of generating energy from their own rooftops."
“The IAEI looks forward to another partnership opportunity with IREC and these great industry partners," said Joseph Wages, Jr., Technical Advisor, Education, Codes and Standards at the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. "We appreciate the opportunity to provide training and safety-related information regarding solar energy storage to the electrical professionals tasked with installing and inspecting these systems. This information is desperately needed as energy storage becomes more and more the norm.”
May 5th through the 11th is National Arson Awareness Week and this year's theme is "Preventing Arson at Construction Sites." The NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation developed a comprehensive program designed to educate personnel, including general contractors, safety managers, first responders, and inspectors about fire prevention for buidings under construction, renovation, and demolation. The training program includes curriculum developed by a steering committee including Jim Tidwell, who served with the Fort Worth Fire Department, and is also active on the national fire code arena.
Jim recently authored an article which was published in Fire Engineering about the Construction Site Fire Safety Program entitled "Improving Fire Safety on Construction Sites." The full article can be read HERE.
The events in Parkland, Florida are tragic and heartbreaking. A senseless attack on students, teachers, and administrators is inexplicable. Our deepest condolences are extended to everyone affected by this horrific incident. Many seek to find a simple solution, and several concepts have emerged, including eliminating fire drills and implementing barricading devices.
While early reports indicate that the suspect may have initiated a fire alarm to lure victims out of the safety of their classrooms and offices into a danger zone, eliminating fire drills in an effort to protect civilians from an active shooter is a knee-jerk reaction. Fire drills have historically been shown to save lives. There are available and allowable systems in the fire and building codes to help address misuse of fire alarms, if implemented.
Additionally, NASFM would like to re-iterate its position that barricading devices should be carefully considered and not viewed as a reliable and safe solution. Any steps taken to mitigate an active shooter situation with a barricading device should also comply with building codes, fire codes, and life safety requirements. This includes the ability to readily unlatch the door from inside the classroom with one motion without the use of a key, a tool, or special knowledge, or effort, in order to facilitate immediate egress from the classroom.
Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the citizens and first responders of south Florida. We are proud of the heroes who stepped forward that day and hope for the day when every child can feel safe at school.
Please see more detailed information and guidance here.
Patriarch Jack Pearson's untimely death on NBC's hit show, "This Is Us" provides NASFM with an excellent opportunity to educate the public about home fire safety, particularly relative to smoke alarms. Before you toss out that traitorous Crock Pot, keep in mind that there's other things that could have helped save Jack's life.
Smoke alarms are critical! Remember, if there is a fire in your home, you could have less than 2 minutes to get out safely once the smoke alarm sounds, but most importantly NEVER EVER go back inside a burning building. Also:
More educational and outreach materials can be found on U.S. Fire Administration's Webpage.