Energy Storage System Electrical Safety for First Responders

Understand the Unique Risks When Energy Storage Systems (ESS) Are Involved

  • Where are Energy Storage Systems (ESS) Located

    • Residential settings, usually near the electrical panel
    • Microgrids
    • Commercial
    • Critical infrastructure 
    • Utilities
  • Mitigation and Emergency Response

    • Is the system active or shut down?
    • Are there abnormal temperature readings? Is there smoke or toxic or flammable gas present?
    • Has the fire suppression system been activated?
    • Qualified personnel should be contacted to find system status and response procedures 
  • Identify the Hazard

    • Location and type of battery systems
    • Reference any pre-planning documents
    • Reference any safety data sheets
  • Shutdown

    • Communicate shutdown to all personnel. Level of shutdown may depend on level of incident
    • Secure all non-essential power. May require a qualified person to assist 
    • Shut down small breakers before the main breaker
    • Shut off main battery disconnect; energy storage systems may still provide power
    • Do not enter utility substations, battery installations, or other facilities. Do not attempt to operate equipment without qualified utility personnel
  • Watch

    • Hazardous energy may still be available in the battery even after shutdown
    • Continue to monitor energy storage systems to avoid future fires. May take hours or days
    • Monitor air and provide proper ventilation 
    • Avoid any liquid. Beware of trapped has and explosion hazards. Do not approach or attempt energy of a battery room suspected of thermal runaway and off-gassing if life is not at risk
  • Identify 

    • Electrolyte Spills
      • Identify the chemistry involved to know the response
      • Reference any pre-plan info available
      • Interview knowledgeable staff
      • PPE and SCBA offer limited protection
      • Dike area around spread – clean up needs to be completed by qualified personnel
    • Overheated Batteries
      • Overheating can be evident by bulging or other deformities
      • Air monitoring and ventilation should be ongoing
      • If you can see the battery, monitor them with a thermal imager for changes in temperature 
      • When batteries are shut off, they should cool, but it may take time. If temperatures do not go down or go up, there may be a fire
    •  Energy Storage System Fires
      • Ensure full PPE and SCBA are being used in firefighting operations
      • Review safety data sheets or pre-plans to know battery chemistry and hazards
      • Secure water supply
      • Evacuate area affected by fire
      • Consider turning off HVAC but keep dedicated exhaust for energy storage systems 
      • Attempt to extinguish the fires ( Not for NaS battery-type fires). Apply water directly to cells if possible to remove heat. If direct water application isn’t possible, apply water to protect exposures
      • Continue temperature monitoring. May take hours or days to cool. Continued explosive and toxic off-gassing, and re-ignition, is possible 
      • After the fire, monitor for flammable or toxic gases. Always monitor for pockets of stranded gas. Never attempt to overhaul a damaged ESS


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