Considerations for Fire Service Response to Residential Battery Energy Storage System Incidents

Considerations for Fire Service Response to Residential Battery Energy Storage System Incidents

Firefighters are being urged to take extra precautions when approaching structure fires involving residential energy storage systems (ESS), an increasingly popular home energy source that uses lithium-ion battery technology.

The findings are part of an exhaustive report released by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and UL Solutions, based on a two-year research project examining the characteristics of fires resulting from the overheating of lithium battery systems stored in residential structures. The report – “Considerations for Fire Service Response to Residential Battery Energy Storage System Incidents” – offers new data on how lithium fires ignite and spread and urges support for further research toward limiting these fires.

“Professional fire fighters and emergency medical workers are trained to respond swiftly to all hazards, and lithium battery fires represent one more challenge we are confronting every day,” said IAFF General President Edward Kelly. “I encourage fire officials to study this report, review the tactical considerations with their members, and urge governments to support this ongoing research so our communities are safe.”

Lithium batteries are found in consumer products including smart phones, scooters, and e-bikes, as well as new residential energy systems. While powerful and useful, these batteries can swiftly overheat and ignite. In 2019, four Arizona fire fighters were seriously injured responding to a fire where trapped gases from an ESS exploded.

The IAFF and UL Solutions, funded through a Department of Energy grant, began researching residential ESS fire incidents to provide fire fighters data and tactical considerations for effective response.

“When lithium-batteries fail, fire fighters must respond and successfully control the situation to protect public safety,” stated Sean DeCrane, Director of Health and Safety Operational Services at the IAFF. This research project is the first to evaluate the result of failure in a residential lithium-ion battery energy storage system, and to develop tactical considerations for the fire service to these incidents.

“A heightened focus on sustainable building construction and renewable energy also means considering new approaches to fire safety,” said Alex (Klieger) Schraiber, P.E., Research Manager, Fire Research & Development at UL Solutions. “We are proud to partner with IAFF to apply our decades of large-scale fire testing and energy storage system testing experience to further the understanding of fire service approaches necessary in addressing residential energy storage system hazards.”

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