A version of Connecticut State Rep. Jay Case’s firefighter-safety measure is two votes and a signature away from becoming law.
Case introduced H.B. 5107 in January, and after being adopted by the public safety committee a week ago and gaining ardent support from firefighters and fire marshals, the bill heads to the House floor for a vote. If the 151-member House approves, the Senate will vote on the measure and send it to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk.
The bill minimizes harm by updating state electrical codes, keeping them uniform with the National Electrical Code. Case advocated for current-disconnection switches for solar panels, similar to circuit breakers on telephone poles that cut electricity to burning buildings. Solar panel disconnections are currently located within the residences, inaccessible to firefighters.
Although the bill isn’t exactly what Case had introduced, it addresses many of the concerns firefighters and fire officials brought to the Winchester Republican.
“I’m pleased to see this important public safety measure is gaining ground,” Case said. “This bill means Connecticut’s fire code can catch up with the changing times. It strikes a vital balance between alternative energy and safety.”
In 2013, some 7,000 solar panels prevented New Jersey firefighters from effectively battling a 300,000 square-foot warehouse blaze. Fire officials, fearing electrocution, barred firefighters from donning the warehouse’s roof. Case’s proposal, a common-sense, preventative approach to fire safety, intends to prevent the same issue from popping up in Connecticut.
Fire officials being trained to treat solar panels like live wires also face lagging electrical code books which don’t yet reflect solar panel safety: the 2011 provisions were just approved recently but 2014’s haven’t been accepted.