EFFINGHAM — The Effingham Plan Commission voted approve an amendment to City Code that would allow the Fire Department to know what homes, or businesses ,within city limits are using solar energy panels. The proposed regulations would also require solar power installations to be in compliance with already existing City Codes related to electrical installation.
Effingham Fire Chief Joe Holomy testified at Tuesday’s Plan Commission meeting and said that the proposed regulations address potentially life threatening safety issues for firefighters. “The most obvious issue is the potential of firefighters being electrocuted when they go up on the roof to do rooftop operations,” Chief Holomy said. He also said that additional weight on a roof from solar panels could cause earlier collapses in fire situations. Knowing ahead of time that home or business had such solar panels would allow the Fire Department to change how they fight the fire accordingly.
Holomy said the goal of the new regulations isn’t to discourage solar power in the area, but rather to protect the public and first responders. “We fully support the use of solar power” Holomy stated. “However, part of it is my responsibility to ensure that when I put people on a roof in an emergency situation, I’m reducing their chances of being killed and panel can generate 600-1,000 volts of direct current” he continued. “If one of my firefighters came into contact with that panel there would be nothing I could do for them, they would literally be electrocuted to death and that is what I’m looking to prevent.”
The new regulations will still need to be approved by the City Council before becoming law.