Safety Stand Down Q&A: ‘Unanimous’ vote for 2023 lithium-ion battery theme
Eric Valliere, chair of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association, spoke with FireRescue1 about this year’s safety push around electric batteries
Safety Stand Down Week 2023 has begun, meaning it’s time to rally around one major safety-focused concern facing the fire service and attack it from all angles.
This year’s Safety Stand Down theme focuses on the dangers posed by lithium-ion batteries and the goods they power, with training topics broken down into five daily concentration areas:
- Recognition of hazards
- Firefighting operations
- Firefighter safety
- Post-incident considerations
- Public education
Ahead of this year’s stand down, I spoke with Eric Valliere, assistant chief of the Scottsdale (Arizona) Fire Department and chair of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association, which coordinates the annual awareness week in partnership with the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Safety, Health and Survival Section (IAFC SHS), the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).
Valliere shared his enthusiasm about this year’s theme, “Lithium-ion batteries: Are you ready?” and the impact of the annual Safety Stand Down on the fire service.
Learn more about the 2023 initiative and check out our collection of FireRescue1 resources on lithium-ion batteries below.
FireRescue1: Why is it important to coalesce the entire apparatus of safety around one topic each year?
Valliere: I’m big on that when we have a lot of great entities, associations and organizations that are focused on safety; let’s all work together to put something fantastic in play.
We’re all working hard to reach our group, the people that follow us, but why not put them together? Let’s have some synergy with what this thing looks like and be able to reach more people.
Who cooks pizza outside of the pan? You don’t. You put everything in the pan, you cook it up, and then you take the slices. That’s the whole theory – it’s not different with this process. You get good, caring organizations, big-hitters like we have, that have a lot of following; there’s credibility with every one of the organizations in this that people can reach out and trust. There’s a level of trust that says, “the material is going to be legit,” and I can focus on that.
Was there a discussion or consideration of other topics for the 2023 Safety Stand Down theme?
The three big killers in the fire service are cardiac, cancer and behavioral health, and every year we talk about if we should do one of those again. However, this year was unanimous. Everybody’s on board with lithium-ion batteries because every community is being touched by this, and every community is trying to figure it out by themselves. Why don’t we figure this out together? There are a lot of best practices we can generalize and utilize.
What makes this issue more pressing than others facing the fire service?
It’s vexing the fire service, so much so that we’re just trying to figure out how we’re going to deal with this stuff – and not even just the fire itself. Where do we take [the lithium-ion battery after it’s been extinguished] and what do we do with it afterwards? How do we help reset that customer back to a state of normalcy?
Lithium-ion battery safety awareness includes everything from the person driving the electric vehicle, to the person that has a micro-mobility device, to a company’s energy storage facility.
It spans the spectrum regarding the dangers involved, not just to the public, but firefighters as well. That’s when we gathered all the SMEs from all the groups and said, “OK, let’s break this thing down.’”
Has the FDSOA reached out internationally on the topic of lithium-ion batteries to see how firefighters in other parts of the world are grappling with the issue?
We have connections with Europe, obviously, and we’ve got the vice chair and our international director both out of Canada, so we have a tight network of people that we can reach out to.
All the coordinating SSD partners have such great outreach; many times they’re different, and our contacts may be different than some of the other entities. That’s the power of synergy that we’re getting with this; it’s the force-multiplier. I talk about the force-multiplier in leadership; this is the force-multiplier in safety, right? Get great people and great organizations together, gather the right information and share it with even more people.
Do you see the Safety Stand Down initiative as breaking members out of information silos?
100%. We need to come together as a fire service and work on these issues, and everybody has a different play. From the FDSOA perspective, our motto is, “Bringing safety to the streets.” So, it’s about good education and good training, then deployment of that training on scene to keep our firefighters and first responders safe.
Learn more about the 2023 Safety Stand Down initiative and gain valuable insights into lithium-ion batteries with these related articles:
- Step by step: Incorporating the Safety Stand Down theme into training
- Lithium-ion training on a budget
- Lithium-ion battery fires: The missing data
- 10 takeaways from UL’s FSRI lithium-ion battery symposium
- Lithium-ion battery construction: Firefighters should know the differences
- Beware of the thermal runaway danger posed by lithium batteries