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.