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Bill to Protect Firefighters From Solar Panel Dangers Advances

Assemblyman Robert Schroeder sponsors bill requiring emblem on buildings where solar panels are attached to the roof to protect firefighters from electrocution.

With an increasing number of buildings investing in alternative energy, emergency responders are often unable to immediately identify structures that have installed solar panels on their roofs — putting them at risk of electrocution in the event of a fire. 

In an effort to protect firefighters against the danger of electrocution posed by solar panels, Assemblyman Robert Schroeder (R-Woodcliff Lake), a volunteer firefighter in the Township of Washington since 1980 who has twice served as fire chief, has sponsored a bill that would require buildings to clearly label with an exterior emblem whether they have solar panels.

The bipartisan bill was approved by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, on which Schroeder serves.

"New Jersey is one of the fastest-growing markets for solar energy and trails only California in terms of installations, but solar panels pose an unintended threat to firefighters," Schroeder said last week.

"Safe firefighting requires knowledge and awareness of the situation. This bill will let emergency responders know at a glance when there's a threat of electrocution because the building is actively harnessing power from the sun."

The safety measure was recommended in a National Fire Protection Association report focusing on structural firefighting in buildings that utilize solar panels to generate thermal and/or electrical energy.

According to the report, buildings with solar power systems "can present a variety of significant hazards" for firefighters.  

In addition, the bill requires that all existing and newly constructed buildings with solar panels be equipped with an external shut-off switch. 

"We can have clean reliable energy without making fires any more dangerous than they already are," said Schroeder.

"As a firefighter, I understand the value of knowing immediately what potential dangers await in a burning building I might have to enter."

"Simply putting a warning sign on the outside of a building could very well save the life of one of our brave first responders," Schroeder said. 

WTFF38 March 20, 2012 at 10:58 PM
As a volunteer firefighter for Washington Township I am disgusted at what I am reading. The fact that people are complaining about a sticker to warn firefighters that the house is equipped with solar panels is crazy. Ever been on a roof with fire and smoke? You can't see much as it is, so how are we going to see a panel that is designed to blend in with the existing roof so it looks "pretty". I'd like to pull up to a fire and see the sign before I step off the truck. Also disconnecting the power from the box does not ensure the panels have no power. The only way to completely turn the panels off is to put a special tarp to keep sun light out. In addition the issue with the blue lights is off topic and is irrelevant. As volunteers we have to travel across town to get to the fire stations, we don’t live there. They should not exceed the speed limit ever but every second counts including drivers pulling to the side of the road letting us pass. I'll leave you with a final thought, it is an unpaid profession. We leave our family during dinner, work or school all to keep our neighbors safe. Next time you see us pass by remember we could be going to your house.
Chris Hansen April 18, 2012 at 09:14 PM
WTFF38 You make some interesting, thoughtful points. There may be a story here.
zizi September 06, 2012 at 04:52 PM
We don't have such problems in Teaneck...... We pay our firefighters and police personal.
Tom Tom, the piper's son September 06, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Zizi, you should pay your grammar instructors better.
kikidistiles March 25, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Thanks for sharing, I really should talk to my pastor about getting <a href="http://www.islandwidesolar.com/residential.php">solar panels in Honolulu</a> for out church. It may save him lots of money.

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