SFFD gains shield from shock

Buildings with known rooftop solar panels will be surveyed, and a map of locations will be incorporated into dispatch software to protect firefighters from the potentially dangerous devices.

As The Examiner reported on Dec. 14, the Fire Department began training its officials to recognize telltale signs that solar panels are on top of a building.

Rooftop solar panels proliferated in The City over the past two years and more than 1,300 installations are listed in the online database sf.solarmap.org. Roughly 300 more need to be added to the database.

If a firefighter inadvertently puts an axe through a sun-drenched panel while piercing a roof to release hot gases and smoke from a burning building, the firefighter could receive an electric jolt.

While not powerful enough to cause serious injury, the jolt could knock the firefighter dangerously off balance. The peril exists even if the panel has been disconnected from the grid.

To help protect firefighters from such dangers, the San Francisco Department of Environment is providing data from the online solar panel database to the Fire Department, Renewable Energy Program Manager Danielle Murray said.

The data will be uploaded into the Fire Department’s dispatch software, spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

“Once we receive the information, everything has to be inputted by hand into our computer aided dispatch system,” Talmadge said. “That’s time-consuming.”

In the interim, the panel location information will be provided to battalions and firehouses, and officials will conduct site surveys to pre-plan how they would tackle fires at each of the locations, Talmadge said.

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