I tell people all the time that one of the reasons I chose the fire and emergency services as a career is because there's always something new to learn; this story provides a great example.
Clearly, the "Green Economy" has arrived everywhere in the United States, bringing with it the immediate need for fire departments to get training on the impacts of green building techniques on firefighting strategy and tactics.
Personally, I had no idea about how to address photovoltaic (solar) panels on a roof until I saw a presentation at the IAFF Redmond Health and Safety Symposium a couple years ago.
Without that knowledge, I would have dealt with them like any good (former) truck company firefighter: by smashing or cutting them. Wrong answer!
Similarly, when you climb up on top of a building and find a so-called "green" (vegetative) roof, what's your ventilation plan?
How about a group of fast-spinning miniature windmills placed along the parapet wall; are you expecting that at 2 a.m?
Frankly, I think we, as a service, are behind the power curve on this topic. We can't delay in developing the knowledge base, getting the training, and changing our strategy and tactics where needed.
It's also vital to reinforce the importance of area familiarization, pre-incident planning, and making sure the fire department is involved in your local planning/zoning function.
Stay safe and get green!
About the author
With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.
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