First responders learn to deal with solar power

Posted at 11:29 PM, Sep 12, 2016

The Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY) presented a seminar Monday afternoon where first responders learned how to handle buildings with solar panels. Around 150 first responders were present for the seminar.

Joseph Vallo, instructor of the class and Captain of the Jersey City Fire Department, spoke about the potential risks solar panels bring when handling fires.

"By lifting or removing that panel, they can get electrocuted very, very easily and not only injure themselves but it will arc into all firefighters around them," explained Vallo. 

These panels may be eco-friendly, but not quite as first responder-friendly. He explained that not only can firefighters get electrocuted, but because of the weight of the panels, it can be easier for the roof to collapse.

"A fire is a rapid degradation of that structure, so as that structure is starting to lose structural instability, it is already compromised by the solar panels in the rays that are in the roof," said Vallo.

Dan Cadzow installed solar panels on his home on Humboldt Parkway. He has 20 panels on his home, and ten on his garage. It's a 9.3 kilowatt system.

"Solar panels don't weight half as much as asphalt shingles so stripping those off and putting a new roof on, that's another way that they could say you gotta make sure that there's only one layer if you're going to put solar panels on," said Cadzow.

Captain Vallo explained that another risk is accessing the home in case of an emergency. Cadzow, however, says first responders can access his home from other areas of his room.

"It doesn't worry me at all," said Cadzow. "The panels are only on the spots where the sun shines a lot, and there's a lot of other areas."

Since solar panels are becoming more and more popular, fire officials say they need more experience working around this new technology.

"I learn every time I teach," said Captain Vallo. "There's somebody like that gentleman that you talked to, that will teach me and what I do is I project that back to the classes."