In close cooperation with their Canadian counterparts, United States public safety authorities are taking the first steps towards creating a proper infrastructure to ensure the safe use of the new hydrogen fuel cells now being introduced commercially. Currently, public safety officials are being asked to permit hydrogen fuel cells for stationary power, and as emergency power backups for the telecommunications towers that exist everywhere. Consistent application of the safety codes is difficult - in part because it is new - yet it is far more complex to train emergency responders to deal safely with the inevitable hydrogen incidents. The US and Canadian building and fire codes and standards are similar but not identical. The US and Canadian rules are unlikely to be useful to other nations without modification to suit different regulatory systems. However, emergency responder safety training is potentially more universal. The risks, strategies and tactics are unlikely to differ much by region. The Hydrogen Executive Leadership Panel (HELP) made emergency responder safety training its first priority because the transition to hydrogen depends on keeping incidents small and inoffensive, and the public and responders safe from harm. One might think that advising 1.2 million firefighters and 800,000 law enforcement officers about hydrogen risks is no more complicated than adding guidance to a website. One would be wrong. The term "training" has specific, legal implications, which may vary, by state. For hazardous materials, federal requirements apply. Insurance companies place training requirements on the policies they sell to fire departments, including the thousands of small, all-volunteer departments which may operate as private corporations. Union contracts may define training, and promotions may be based on satisfactorily completed certain levels of training. Emergency responders could no sooner learn how to extinguish a hydrogen fire by reading a webpage, than a person could learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book. Procedures must be learned by listening, reading and then doing. Regular practice is necessary. As new hydrogen applications are commercialized, additional responder training may be necessary. This highlights another obstacle, emergency responders' ability to travel distances and take the time to undergo training. Historically, fire academies established adjunct instructor programs and satellite academies to bring the training to firefighters. The large, well-equipped academies are typically used for specialized training. States rarely have enough instructors, and instructors often must take the time to create a course outline, research each point and produce a program that is informative, useful and holds the attention of responders. The challenge of training emergency responders seems next to impossible, but public safety authorities are asked to tackle the impossible every day, and a model exists to move forward in the U.S. Over the past few years, the National Association of State Fire Marshals and U.S. Department of Transportation enlisted the help of emergency responders and industry to create a standardized approach to train emergency responders to deal with pipeline.
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