By John Harrison & Jane Pulaski

Last week, first responders and solar trainers from Florida attended two short solar-related workshops at the Florida Solar Energy Center.

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As more and more PV systems are being installed, the need to educate first responders is becoming critical. Hosted by the Southeast Solar Training Network (SSTN), the morning session was designed to assist trainers in developing courses for first responders and firefighters and provide direct training for first responders . The workshop was developed and coordinated with help from the University of Central Florida Building and Fire Code office and representative from the Florida Fire Marshall’s office. Renowned solar trainer and educator, Jim Dunlop, developed and conducted the training. There were over 40 attendees at this workshop including first responders, utility officials, and SSTN trainers. Post workshop comments were highly positive and indicated an important need for this kind of information for first responders.

First responders learned how to identify the basic types of PV systems and their major components, how to disconnect those systems and disable energized circuits, and how to recognize and mitigate the potential hazards through safe work practices. Emergency response operations involving PV systems was also covered. The latest information and research on firefighter safety concerns were featured, including personal protective equipment and other apparatus, and the level of protection provided by this equipment. Attendees learned about applicable codes and standards addressing firefighter safety concerns for new PV system installations, including requirements in the National Electrical Code, the International Fire Code and NFPA 1: Fire Code.

PV marketing was the topic of the afternoon workshop. Designed to help SSTN faculty better convey key solar messaging to their students, consumers and industry, the workshop also gave instructors factual information to educate the public about the benefits of solar energy. Topics covered included market statistics, the solar industry and workforce, financial analysis methods, incentives, and future solar opportunities. The workshop was developed by SSTN and FSEC staff members and conducted by David Click. This workshop was targeted to and attended primarily by SSTN partner educators.