Firefighter Viewpoint (Venting Storage Facilities)
This is my firefighter viewpoint regarding solar electric (PV) panels on roofs.
With the installation of solar electric (PV) panels on roofs, firefighters have become concerned with how to approach such buildings. The primary concern is firefighter safety, followed by finding a method which will be effective in protecting lives and extinguishing a fire. There is always a concern and sometimes fear with anything new, and education is the key to addressing the concerns.
I think a place to start is to put PV panels in perspective. We already accept 275 gallon oil tanks in basements or on the sides of houses, or on the first floor of a one story structure with no basement. We already accept propane tanks of all sizes situated in many places around buildings. We already accept that vehicles and all sorts of storage containers with gasoline and diesel fuel can be found everywhere, including inside structures. We already accept that buildings are linked to powerlines and natural gas pipelines. When you consider all of these potential hazards which confront firefighters, and which they have learned to manage, PV panels are relatively benign, and can be managed easily.
If a building has PV panels on the south side of the roof, the roof can still be vented from the other sides. If PV panels are found on all sides or on the entire roof of a flat roof building, then venting cannot be done through the roof, but venting can still be done through walls or eaves. I cannot imagine that venting through the roof of a single story storage facility would ever be necessary since venting through doors, windows, or walls should be adequate. If there is concern about power being fed to the building by PV panels, a cut-off switch can be found near the main meter (by code).
Russ Pokorny, Secretary and Class A Firefighter, Town of Knox