Join the conversation on energy safety as Chris Greene, retired captain of Seattle Fire, sheds light on overlooked hazards, empowering responders with vital knowledge for effective response to and prevention of electric vehicle and stored energy events.


Craig Weaver: Welcome to Response Leadership brought to you by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension service, a leader in response training. We are a podcast, bringing you leadership expertise from the top minds in emergency response. I’m your host, Craig Weaver. I work in marketing and communications here at TEEX.

Today I have two guests on. Our first guest is Chris Greene, retired captain of Seattle Fire. He’s an energy hazard response SME. Also joining us today is Chris Angerer. He’s acting division director here at TEEX with ESTI, Emergency Services Training Institute. I’m glad to have both of you on. And I’ll start off by asking Chris Green, the big question, give me a little background on, who you are and how you got to where you are now.

Chris Greene: Well, thanks for having me. And, real shout out to TEEX for, uh, kind of getting me out of retirement. I didn’t think I’d come out of retirement. I thought I was done. And it has been a real pleasure to work with TEEX and now different fire departments around Texas. So, that said I did 29 years in the fire service just over, most of that with Seattle Fire, 28 years with Seattle Fire. I promoted up the ranks and, in 2006, I got promoted to captain. I ended up at the marshal’s office for a few years, which was great. I wanted to be there. It was a big code enforcement thing. I needed some sort of a cognitive outlet that was, you know, the other side of the job, prevention, things like that.

I got out of the marshal’s office in 2005 and I made my way to Fire Station 25, which is up on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Washington. I like to say that is the best fire station in the world. And if you’re out there and you’re listening, I hope that you feel the same way about your firehouse, because I sure as hell did about 25s. That said, while I was up there, Fire Station 25 is a very busy house that you’ve got an engine, a truck, you’ve got two aid cars, you’ve got a battalion chief, you’ve got a couple of specialty units that respond out of there and one of those specialty units was something called Power 25. A Power 25 was a mobile bulk CO2 unit. It was a truck, and this was a cascade system on the back of this big pickup truck. And it was commissioned and paid for by Seattle City Light, the energy provider for Seattle, to put out manhole fires and things like that. Now this thing was commissioned in 1968.

And it went through a bunch of upgrades, you know, different vehicles, but come 2011 when I took over the station, the rig really wasn’t used very often. We were still having manhole fires and things like that, but it really wasn’t used because we didn’t understand what really how manhole fires work. There was a bit of a disconnect between Seattle city light and fire. And so, you know how the relationship begins to degrade because you’re not, you’re not nurturing, you’re not working together much. Fast forward to 2014. We had a big fire at a substation in downtown Seattle, did close to a million dollars worth of damage. And from that, Seattle City Light really decided that, hey, we want a better relationship with Seattle Fire. We want something that has more scripted responses. We don’t know what this means yet, but we know that we want something that is more formalized so that we both know what to expect from you because, the fact is some of the things that the crews did on scene for during that substation fire, are they run in conflict with what you probably would expect.

And it did, it led to some damage that was unnecessary. So, from that we formalize this relationship. They begin funding us. They begin paying our hazard pay. In June of 2018, Seattle Fire became the first fire agency in the world to have a specialty team that focused on energy hazards of the city. So from substations to switch gear rooms to vaults, transformers, manholes above ground hazards, below ground hazards, solar or photovoltaic array systems and batteries. Now, the batteries we talk about a lot now are lithium ion, but the reality is the battery incidents we were dealing with, I mean, they included lead acid and other sorts, because in Seattle, batteries are an energy hazard. I know many other agencies are seeing them as a hazmat hazard, and that’s fine, as long as you’re dealing with them and you’ve got some sort of a plan.

So, what happened was this, this energy response team which function out of  Fire Station 25. It’s made up of 44 specialty trained firefighters in energy along with all their other duties. We started responding as the lead units to resolve these emergencies. And with it came energy related PPE, energy training from Seattle City Light, and also from other agencies around the country, much more focus on NFPA 70, going through some of those certs and anything else out there, NFPA 12, which is CO2, We really began to pay a lot more attention as a station to what’s the official expectation of electrical issues, CO2, stuff like that.

Well, in 2020, or correction. I believe it was 2019. The director of Seattle City Light walked into my office. I’m thinking I’m in trouble, like I’m thinking, do I have to put my class A’s on? Like, I’m thinking the director does not come around for no reason. I mean, I know the guy, I know the guy and we’re friendly, but you know how it is when you’re friendly with the boss, you’re friendly with the boss until there’s a problem. Yeah, looking at you. Anyways, he puts this picture in front of me in my office. It’s a picture of San Francisco’s mobile CO2 unit, 7, 200 pounds of liquid CO2, single tank, low pressure setting. I knew the system like the back of my hand. Cause I’d been down there to see it many times and he goes, you know what that is?

And I explained to him what it is. He goes good, so you know what that is. He goes, we’re going to build you one. And I said, what? And he goes, I’m going to build you a rig. We’re going to fund it. And we’re going to build this thing out. I almost started crying because I knew what that meant because no specialty team, it’s kind of like the authentication of a specialty team is you need a flagship vehicle to go with it. I understand that most specialty application stuff is knowledge, it’s cognitive basis, it’s training, that’s what it is. But let’s cut the crap. You need a big rig with big letters on the side of it that says, here comes the flagship and they built it out. And, the rig about 1. 3 million worth every penny that thing. It is now what is called the Energy 1. It was nice. I was able to name the rig. I was able to be very, very involved in building the rig. Um, but one of the beauties of that, and that was towards the tail end of my career was that I got to work really closely with fleets per city of Seattle.

And there’s a guy down there named Rick Haggard. I got to work with very closely and he was fantastic. He knew everything about building rigs. Um, I got to work with a guy named Leonard Sheever. He runs fleets for this, for Seattle fire. Absolutely brilliant. John Roach, another guy with city of Seattle that builds rigs. These were some of the best rig builders I’d ever been around in my life and, and believe me, I’m the dumb guy in the room at that point. I mean, I know what the rig needs to do. I know what it needs to look like, but that’s nothing compared to what goes into building a rig. And then, again, also a member named Dave Crest. He’s a legend with Seattle fire fleets. He’s second generation fleets guy for city of Seattle. When I looked at the team that we had put together to build this rig energy 1, I knew we were going to build something special and we did not disappoint.

It is does everything that we needed to do. It does it well. It’s going to be a generational rig. We’re already funded out the next rig for the energy team. And that’ll be built in about 15 years. But, all of these things came into play because really, we had Seattle City Light that really wanted to formalize energy hazard responses. And we had a fire chief, Chief Harold Scoggins. that understood the power of supporting it. And we had an assistant chief, that being Brian Hastings. And also, we had, I guess what I’m saying is we had people around us that really supported this thing.

And I can say for a fact that while I ran that team, I never heard no to money when I needed something. I got it. And anybody who works with the fire service knows how rare that is. So if I can say one thing for certain that helped me to help the team move forward, um, with great support from the top down and they backed it up with money. The other thing that they did was they left me alone to work with the members of Fire Station 25 so that collectively the station could guide this program and we took a vote on it, you know, do we want to be a specialty team? 25 is a kick ass firefighting house always will be. So the question was, is this going to be a distraction. We took a vote and  we voted to become a specialty team. And it was a real community effort and probably one of the highlights of my career was building this thing out, but it also ended my career, you know, 10 years building this thing. And by the time I was done, I had a little over 29 years in, I had nothing left in the tank. I was pretty sure I was going to go off to Hawaii and just shut down and be done forever. And then I started getting phone calls and I ended up going back to work for the IAFF. I do work with TEEX, I do a lot of consulting and there’s a lot of things happening right now on the energy side of the fire service, and it’s really nice to be a part of that.

I work with FSRI as a technical committee member for the EV fire burn project. That’s a four year commitment. And so I’m at least going that long. IAFF, and and really through Sean, the crane is funding this energy response guidebook. And I believe that that is going to be the marquee book that every fire department is going to use across the country. That’s been really great to partner up with them and, with Washington State, it’s just the support is, is endless through Scott Lancaster, who’s a fire marshal with Washington State Fire. But the reality is, you know, my first phone call came from TEEX. And it was talking to your guys’s director that made me feel like maybe there was value in me not retiring and of course, I get to work with Gordon and Chris Anger and I am very grateful for that. So, I have a very special place in my heart for Texas and for TEEX. I love that TEEX puts academia so high on, on their pinnacle of what’s needed to be good firefighting. You know, they don’t push product. They push training. And I love that.

Chris Angerer: I just remember that day when David Coatney called you. I happened to be in the vehicle with him when he called and talked to you about this and, and expressed an interest in what, as a leader in this field of, you know, energy response and what you had done with Seattle fire. And I’ll just say this, he wasn’t going to take no for an answer that day. He was interested in getting your message out. And to that end, whatever it took to try to get that word out because as you well know right now, we have this whole energy response crisis out there right now in response to lithium ion battery technology. And we’re just glad that you were willing to partner up with us to try to help get that word out because we really do see you and you’ve mentioned a couple other names there,  as really on the front lines of all of this and really making this go to places where we’re not able to take it specifically, but because of your expertise, your knowledge, your subject matter expertise, you’ve been able to really get the message out there and to help first responders all over the United States, in my estimation.

Craig Weaver: When you’re asked to come speak, what, what is your message? What are you trying to get out there?

Chris Greene: Well, I got to tell you my number one message that I preach out there is, when you think about energy hazard responses, do not be so myopic to just think batteries, because it’s not the whole picture.

Getting your hands around what an energy response is and how it’s affecting the player’s service, It’s all about scale, and it’s about understanding what it is that goes in, what is an energy response. If I say substation, people just think electrical, and that’s fine, that’s fine. If I say wires down, people think electrical, right? When we start talking about batteries, They also think electrical, maybe a little bit of power, but what we’re finding is, and what we know is that these are all energy hazards, right? And when you start looking at it from that perspective, you understand that solar is an energy hazard.

The nexus between solar and residential ESS is strong. So you have to understand residential ESS. Residential ESS used to be lead acid batteries. Now it’s lithium ion. And it’s hard to say what it’s going to be in 10 years, but what it will be is an energy hazard. And so when we start looking at this stuff, that’s where you can see the nexus between substations and switchgears and manholes and bolts and transformers and solar and batteries and everything else. And so now what you end up with is, Now I can build an energy hazard response program. Not everybody needs to build a specialty team with hazard paid like Seattle Fire did, but anybody trying to move forward in the fire service without understanding what goes in an energy bag and what an energy response program looks like, I think it’s dangerous.

Because lithium ion batteries is not going to be the last thing that catches off guard. It’s just the thing that challenged us today. But the reality is we have, we have legacy gaps about substations that go back 80, 90 years, but you ask anybody when was the last time they took a substation class about substation hazards and responses and things like that. It’s rare to even see a hand go up. When you ask them about EV fires. Everybody’s had a class. But the numbers, here are your numbers right now. Let’s not talk about 2035 when I think EV fire is going to be much more common. Let’s meet them where they’re at right now in 2024. In 2024, you’re going to see right around 100 EV fires this year. You saw a little less than that last year. As recently as 2022, you saw as much as 50. Those numbers were there for about four years, right? Substation incidents. These are number of times the fire, National Fire Service is responding to substation events, whether it’s a medical emergency or fire. 1100 times a year, 1100 times a year.

And so one thing that happens that I always find kind of interesting, but it tells me what the fire department is listening to, is that you’re 11 times more likely to end up at a substation fire. You have no training whatsoever. You don’t even know what to worry about. And, I never get called for my substation class ever. I finally am going to get a chance to teach it in Cleveland. So, there’s a program up there. They’ve gotten to come up there to teach a substation stuff and the EV stuff. I get called all the time for it and I’m happy to teach it, but I understand the perspective of energy. And so if you, if you don’t understand that, you’re never going to look to substations, understand the gaps that you’ve got there. And there is a real training program that goes to responding into a substation or vaults or switchgears. I’ve got an article coming out again in Fire Engineering Magazine in March, and it covers manhole fires.

This is another energy hazard, and we’ve had people that have been killed by manhole fires and the secondary events that surround them. And yet, it’s rare to find somebody that really understands what are you worried about with a manhole fire. Because it shouldn’t be what you’re seeing in the street. It should be where it’s going. That’s where we’ve killed firefighters. In 2008, we lost a firefighter, Brent Lovren, in Los Angeles. It was a cold CO2 explosion in an adjacent building, a block and a half away from the original manhole fire that had been resolved, they believed, over 30 minutes before this event happened. Los Angeles for Fire responds to the reports of an explosion in a building, two story like strip mall.

They make their way around to the Charlie side, they’re accessing an unmarked utility door, and they end up with a cold CO explosion that ends up killing one of their firefighters and severely injuring, Tony Guzman, the driver. Now this is NIOSH report. 2008-11. Other than Los Angeles fire, I have never once found somebody who has heard of that event. That event was 16 years ago next month. And there was so much information to gain from there in the fire service about how to investigate manhole fires and how to understand where they’re really going. The article should really blow the lid off of that. It comes out next month. But again, it’s about looking at the event as an energy event. Where is it going? How does it get us? How do we use our five gases? When does spark creating tools become a real problem? Do we understand the nexus between hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide? Because other than buoyancy, identical, and we’re all worried about hydrogen gas, aren’t we? Nobody doesn’t worry about that, right? And yet we say CO and we’re like, yeah, we’ll pick it up on the monitor. Fine. Blah, blah, blah. It’s, it’s a gap. It’s because we don’t understand energy. Anyways, if you read the article, I believe it’s a good read. It will introduce a couple of topics  minimum ignition energy.

You’ll read that in the article that has a lot to do with the size of the spark in gas that can create an explosion. It’s why we wear intrinsically safe radios and equipment. It’s that has everything to do with minimum ignition energy. And as you focus on energy more, as you really dive into this, you see how many lessons are out there that we did not learn. And it’s a heartbreaker. That lesson out of Los Angeles to me, I talk about it everywhere I go. It’s that powerful and mean that much to me. And I believe that it honors, Brett. We need to understand this kind of stuff. We don’t need to lose another firefighter for a cold smoke explosion a block and a half away from an incident that we didn’t understand was even related.

And this is a dropper, this is a drop in the bucket. As to why we’re so far behind on this thing and when we talk batteries, I love it. My hope, though is that it provides a springboard to a better holistic understanding of the fire service at our expectations and how we respond to energy these days. I talk a lot about guardrails. And the fire department understanding their operational guardrails. When the fire and life safety components of an emergency are done with, we need to understand that because we do a whole new risk assessment, right? And my one thing that happening with batteries is now we have people pulling batteries apart, filling things with cell block, trying to contain these batteries, all this stuff.

And for me, I look at that more and more like. Listen, is this something you want to do, or is it something that you should be doing? Because there’s a huge difference. There’s companies all over the country that overpack batteries, stabilize batteries, and they do that stuff five days a week. They’re licensed, bonded, and insured. The moment the fire department rolls into that zone, in my mind, I think we, at the very least, we have better have thought this through. Like, do we, do we need to do this, or do we just want to? And we want to oftentimes because we don’t know who to give the job to. And that’s another gap. But again, it is one of the things that I preach is understanding your guardrails at every emergency because getting hurt when you’ve moved beyond your guardrails, that’s a real tragedy.

Getting hurt after the fire and life safety components of an emergency have been stabilized and addressed. To me, that’s a tough one to swallow. It’s like getting shocked in an R3 residential fire after overhaul. If you haven’t de energized and addressed the energy needs for an R3 before you move into overhaul, you are becoming a data point for getting shocked on the fire ground. And in my opinion, there’s no need for that. You know, that’s another thing that’s not really out there. When you hear people talk about, what do we do about energy at R3s? Most people could tell you whose job it is. They could tell you what unit, what truck, whatever, that’s going to be addressing that. Maybe the energy provider does it. But until they show up, it’s on you. Most fire departments can tell you who does it. Rarely can they tell you when it gets done. And what I say is, you know, the data shows us that at R3s, we’re not getting shocked through our host streams. We’re getting shocked by direct contact.

And most of the time it’s happening after overhaul or during overhaul. And last time I checked, if we’re starting overhaul, it sounds to me like the primary and secondary search have been done. And that fire is de escalating and may even be pretty much out. So we’re hurting our guys after that. To me, like I said, the when, far more important than the who. And again, if you focus on energy, if you develop your energy vision in the fire service, You will see this stuff coming a mile away and you won’t need to talk to me about anything because you’ll have your energy vision and you’ll see this coming. So, it’s a long winded version of a way of me saying the things I talk about, but, these are the things that are important to me is helping crews develop that energy vision across eight of the modules of energy.

I’m not a big product pusher. I’ve been called the vendor antichrist. I didn’t have a problem with that, that said, I do believe in some. There’s some tools out there that I really believe in and I talked about them, and Chris Angerer can tell you that we both look at a lot of tools, but like TEEX, I align myself very much with TEEX in that nothing is more important than the academics and the tenure of firefighting skills. It’s an apprenticeship. It takes time. It’s not about tools. It is about really understanding how incidents happen, how we lose life, what our responsibilities are.

Chris Angerer: You know, you go back into firefighters a little bit more than what really they perhaps need to be doing goes back into that space that Gordon Graham always talked about on a high risk, low frequency event. And where we’re really going to get people hurt a lot of times is where you have that high risk and it’s low frequency. You haven’t developed any kind of muscle memory or anything like that to deal with these particular issues, yet you’re in a very high risk environment with a low frequency of attempts or doing anything with it. And then that’s where you’re going to end up getting people hurt. And to your point on the manholes, I can remember early on in my career. We went to Texas Tech University. They have a tunnel system that’s there for all of their utilities. And we had a transformer explode in one of those tunnels.

Well, one of the lieutenants off of one of our engines walked right up over there. And what do firefighters want to do? They want to see what’s going on. Didn’t have his SCBA hooked up or anything like that. Looked over down into that manhole. And what did it do? Same thing that you’re talking about. You’ve got that ignition of that smoke in that tunnel system now because it’s got, finally got into its fly mobile range and it’s ready to go. And it fired like a gun right in its face. And the guy ended up spending two or three days in the hospital. And fortunately, no life threatening injuries. But, you know, maybe a second or two, a different direction. And, and we’d be talking about a story out of Lubbock, Texas, much like the one you’re talking about out of Los Angeles.

Chris Greene: It’s a heartbreaker. And with any luck, as much as we’re diving into batteries and the four use platforms and the three different cell types with any luck, we understand how that dovetails into a much bigger, energy world, and we recognize the fire services responsibility in that. And, I don’t know that we’re going to land there yet. Right now, we just don’t want to seem to move past batteries. I’m hoping, of course, with TEEX help, and with IAF’s help, that we start looking at these things as energy hazards. And the best thing you can do with that to make it easier, start defining them as such. Solar, as an energy hazard on the rooftop or the walls or whatever. You know, I mean, you roll up on a fire like that, the moment somebody says, you know, we’ve got, you know, fire blowing out of a two story wood frame. Floor to Charlie side. Additional information. We have an energy hazard rooftop solar. You hear energy hazard and that tells you what’s going on. You know that that keys you up. And then what is specific about it? Energy hazard wires down front of the home. You know, energy hazard manhole explosions in the street. It’s like when you say hazmat, hazmat means a lot, right? It means a ton of stuff, right?

You say, we’ve got, you get a tech rescue response. That means a lot of things, but it puts you in a lane where all those things are. And so when you say this is a hazmat response, you know that’s like saying I go to church. There’s a lot of different churches out there, right? But it puts you in a lane with hazmat. When you say this is an energy response or we have energy hazards present. Now you’re keyed up to this lane where energy goes and for mine, the way I teach it, you’ve got eight different bulk energy hazards. And so when you say energy hazard substation, energy hazard transformers, energy hazard secondary manhole fire. It becomes clear. It’s a long process, but lithium ion batteries may provide the springboard to a more energy conscience and more energy vision workforce for the fire service. At least I believe it will be. With the support really of Washington state. And the IAFF and with TEEX and more and more communities around the country, I believe that we are developing our energy vision. I believe that it’s happening, but like so many things, how long before we codify it and harmonize a document for all of us to use? That could be a while. Hazmat’s a great explanation of that.

I mean, first Hazmat teams were popping up in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1977. And then they started popping up around the country where they were being formalized and they were getting specialty pay. But your first language really didn’t show up in OSHA and NFPA until 1986. And it became enforceable in 1988 or 89, I believe. You had teams that had been stood up for 10 or 12 years. Like the firefighter boots on the ground. The fire chiefs, the fire officers, the firefighters, they’re dealing with these hazards long before we start writing things down. It’s a natural progression. So nobody should allow energy to seem like this overwhelming thing. We’re just birthing it. It’s the same process they did with Hazmat and Tech Rescue and everybody else. That’s what’s happening with energy right now.

Craig Weaver: What do you find is the most difficult thing in trying to get that message out?

Chris Greene: The first one is funding. Who can afford to pay to bring me in or, or buy TEEX or somebody else in to do this. That just simply costs money. Yeah. Second really is, um, what’s an energy hazard? Well, what do you mean? You mean wires down? Oh, okay. I guess that’s an energy hazard. The hard thing to do is to show them that, Hey, listen, this is your energy hazard box. Here’s what goes inside of it. This is how you build a program to respond to these. It’s very few firefighters who have not gone to an energy hazard incident during their first six months on the job, but they don’t see it that way. They see it as a one off standalone issue. So if you go to a fire where you have solar panels on the rooftop and you’re nervous about putting water up there because you’re worried about getting energized, You don’t think past that.

You go home, fire goes out, you talk, whatever you have, there’s some solar panels on the roof, you leave it alone. That was an energy hazard. That was an energy component to that fire. And if you understand that, you will understand that you’re in those things all the time. And you probably didn’t get a lot of training with that. And so handling standalone issue. It means you’re going to forget. It means that nobody’s going to write him down. Nobody sees the cohesion between all of these energy things.

Here’s what I like to tell people. When I came to the fire service in 94, my first five years I thought I had joined the construction union. Because everywhere I looked, we were looking at buildings and cornices and gables and everything else because we understood how it would affect us on the fire ground, right? We were getting construction training, building training. Just something as simple as looking at a two story home and saying that’s a two story wood frame as opposed to saying that’s a one and a half story wood frame. Now, anybody out there who’s been doing the job for a little while knows the difference between a two story and a one and a half now, technically they’re the same thing, but a one and a half tells you everything about where your work’s going to be. And if you’re in a truck, you’re going to be on that roof. You’ve got void spaces everywhere. You know all about that. Another one, the moment you hear balloon construction, everybody knows what that means. So you could say a two story wood frame, but the moment you throw in balloon construction, now we know our problem, right? That’s the fire service.

And here’s the thing, the construction crews out there, they don’t teach us construction like that. We do that because we know how it affects us in a fire. Energy is the same thing. Had we done the same thing with energy during our first five, six years because we had a proper energy program, by five, six, seven years in the fire department, those fire crews would be totally tuned up on energy hazards. It wouldn’t be this weird, what is this thing you’re talking about? You know, you hear something like legacy construction, we’ve got a two story warehouse legacy construction. That means everything to the fire department. You could just say two story wood frame. Fine. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that. The more developed response, the more accurate response for a fire crew, that’s going to have to go in there and risk something for that incident is to say legacy. One and a half story. Balloon.

And again, energy is no difference. You know, the moment you say we’ve got an energy hazard, then define it, it lets people know that, hey, there’s an energy hazard here. And now what is it specifically? And if you’ve got an energy hazard program with you as part of your training for these firefighters. It will mean as much to them as balloon construction and everything else. And, and in my opinion, it’s gone on long enough with these gaps. It’s time to close up the historic gaps so that we can move forward and not get caught again, like we did with lithium ion. And that’s one of the big messages I push. My lithium ion battery classes, they can run four hour for my trademark. What’s called my lithium ion revolution. It’s a trademark class that I teach. I developed it years ago.  I teach so that you can understand the hazards of lithium ion batteries in any format. You know, I don’t do a four hour class on just EV fires. I don’t believe in it. You know, I want you to understand the bulk hazards of lithium ion batteries. I want you to understand when they get you into trouble and when they can’t.

 Because I can’t be where every Texas firefighter is going to be, they’re good firefighters. And if they understand the bulk ways that lithium ion gets you, Then you can apply that anywhere you want, but if you ask me just to tell you about EV fires, I can do that. That’s fine, we can do that, but I’d much rather teach you how these get you in all formats. You know, a lithium ion driven battery fire on a plane, the driving factors are the same, the space is different. If you understand how it works on a plane and in a garage, then you can understand how it works in an electric vehicle. A great example right now, they’re trying to develop codes to better address potential lithium ion events inside of private R3 garages, and they’re doing it based on residential energy storage systems, 20 kilowatts or less, or greater, that’s the threshold for the permit generally is 20 kilowatts.

The problem with developing a permit for that installation. Is that the hazard will be trapped carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas that will be your problem and a 20 kilowatt system pales in comparison to the Tesla that you just pulled into the garage, which will be a 90 kilowatt system or the hybrid, which will be a 40 kilowatt system. And what I tell people is the batteries are completely agnostic. They don’t know where they are. They don’t care where they are. So whether you’ve got a wall mounted ESS, or a 2015 Tesla, or a 2020 hybrid, you just rolled in lithium ion batteries, and the future will likely be lithium ion phosphate, which puts out more hydrogen gas than any of the other cell formats.

So when you don’t understand this problem, you can’t really correct it in a way that is going to be very effective. And if you want to talk about like a vapor cloud explosion in a garage, it is far less likely that that will be driven by ESS. It will likely be driven by the vehicle. So if we’re putting in codes in place to address. ESS. Well, we’ve neglected the monster of all systems, which is the ED. Now, again, I’m not anti, you know, evolution and development of codes and things like that. But when I teach the firefighters, I teach them what they need to worry about. This is how this stuff is going to get you. This is what’s happening across the world right now. You’re getting vapor cloud explosions in garages. There’s very little showing. And the garage door blows off, you know, and hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide stand alone. They burn very clean. You’re going to look in the window and not see a damn thing. And even with the fireball, you’re not going to see it because it burns clean. And I’ve got plenty of video of that kind of stuff when I teach. But this is how we teach lithium ion batteries is, we have to understand the base hazard and then you can apply it to wherever you want. Do you feel like the

Craig Weaver: Do you feel like the message is being heard slowly, but surely? Do you feel like what you’re saying is being heard?

Chris Greene: Yeah, I mean, well, for batteries, certainly. I know that when I come out to teach a class, somebody brings me out for a four or six hour energy class, I give them their lithium ion in the batteries, which is what they want, the chum. But I always add in solar.  I add in bulk energy, all that kind of stuff. What I hear time and time again is, Chris we need your energy class. We had no idea. They tell me again and again, man, we had no idea about these energy things that you’re teaching. And again, I teach them to firefighters because that’s what I am.

I understand the way we think the tools we’ve got. I understand our responses and I understand what they’ve been taught.  I hear that time and time again is, I wished we had asked you to spend more time on solar. I wished we had asked you to spend more time on substations and manholes and transformers because I touch on all those, but if they paid me to come in and talk about lithium ion, then I’m beholden to talk about lithium ion. And this was the same conversation again I’ve had with Chris anger. You know, initially we were talking about batteries, but he’s a seasoned fire veteran, we don’t have to talk for very long for both of us to understand that. Wow, this, this energy hazard thing. It is way bigger.

You know, the energy battleship is massive. A small portion of that is lithium ion batteries. The moment you understand that and start to embrace energy hazards as a battleship, now you’ve got a chance to really move forward, I think, in a very competent way. You’ve got a chance to close up historical gaps because you’ll start developing your energy vision. You know, the fire service. Kind of adopted an ethos many years ago, which was driven really by energy, which is don’t touch my stuff. You know, just don’t go near it. The problem is, is the fire service operates in a world where we’re around that stuff all the time. And I’m not a big believer in scaring people. I’m a big believer in educating them. And again, that’s something that TEEX very much shares with me. An educated firefighter is a safe firefighter. You know, a timid firefighter, it’s not safe. No, we move forward deliberately. We act on situations where we only know 60 percent of the equation every freaking day.

We’re hoping to get another 20, 30 percent of that equation in the first minute, minute and a half, but we go to war only knowing 60 percent of the problem. We’re good at it, and it’s very rare. That is an unusual response, but that is typical for the fire services. We take a lot of risks in those first 90 seconds of an incident, but we’re very good at it because we’re very educated. The fire service is very educated. This is one lane where I would say that we have a gap that needs to be closed up, and we’ve got a chance to do it right. But we can’t get myopic and think that it’s just about batteries. It’s not.  And, I love that the Texas Fire Chief Conference is bringing me back down. I love it. It’s happening through TEEX. I’m looking forward to being there in March and really just hanging out with Chief Coatney and Chris and everybody. It’s coming back to really some of your family. If your family paid you to come back.

Like I said, TEEX gets it. I believe that the Texas fire chiefs get it. They understand that this is a gap. They understand that the time is now energy in the United States is evolving faster than it ever has energy, not just batteries, the decentralization of the United States energy grid is happening at unprecedented speeds. When you see a solar field go into a hundred acre farm where they used to grow wheat or cotton or corn, and now that’s a hundred acre solar farm, you should understand what fire hazard comes along with that, because it’s not an energy windfall. I guarantee that if there’s a fire or an incident out there, they’re going to call 911.

And that means one of our firefighters They’re going to have to go out there and work in an energy hazard environment that they don’t understand, and that’s a problem. Energy resiliency is not a windfall. It comes with hazards that are very specific to passive energy creation. And the responsible move is not to bury our heads in the sand and act like, ah, that’ll never happen. Or the fire department has always been good at dealing with this, whatever. No, it’s educate the fire service. Fund these programs. You’re going to roll in a hundred acre solar farm. You should understand it that I know for a fact that’s going to come with a whole bunch of batteries in a big battery containment vessel.

That’ll be right on site because that is a micro grid and that is decentralization. We’re making energy through solar. We’re containing it with the batteries and we’re going to distribute it likely within two miles of that battery energy storage system. That’s the future. And what I’m saying is the fire department is going to deal with it when something goes wrong. And we have to support them with academia, not widgets and gadgets and thickets and thackets and crap. We need to support them with education. And again, that’s why I’m proud when people ask me who I do a lot of work for and who I work with. You know, I say the IAFL, I say Washington State, I say TEEX.

These are the people that I’ve done a lot of work for. I say FDIC, fire engineering, I believe that these are big agencies that understand this challenge and the fact that, that we don’t have it right, right now. We do not, and someday we’ll have funding. Someday NFPA will have its own chapter on energy. I truly believe that. I know too many people that work for NFPA. I’m on several NFPA committees. You do that work for free. I don’t know if you know that or not, but for the most part, you’re doing that work for free. And it’s because these guys care and it’s everybody from, from industry to the fire service. And, and one thing that is really neat is that the industry people that are on these NFPA committees. Initially when I started getting on these things about 10 years ago, I was a little suspicious, you know, what do you care about the fire, but I’ll tell you what I found every single one of them is incredibly thoughtful and careful, and they want safety for the firefighters.

They’ve got a better understanding of the academics behind, say, solar or E stops or whatever, but they really need the first responders perspective because One thing is for certain, when it comes to responding to an energy hazard, whether it’s a fire at a level three DCFC charging station, or it’s a rooftop solar panels, or it’s a substation, the fire department owns hazard. It owns application of risk. That’s us. Which means we have got to be at the table, we’ve got to be working towards safety, and safety is something that, we have to stop measuring a safety program success against the lack of death and injury and failures, because that’s not the measure of a good safety program. You don’t measure it against the disasters that you haven’t had yet. You measure it as if it is an unattainable goal, that is, that is an end zone. You’re always working towards this thing. And by unattainable, what I mean is you’re never done. You’re constantly building your safety profile, your safety programs, right?

And again, the measurement of a good safety program is not the absence of injuries and accidents. That is a false way to look at, at safety of our brethren, you know, when I think about the safety of my guys and my crews, I think about their families, that’s what I’m thinking about, I’m thinking about moms and dads, kids and grandparents and, and everything that’s affected when a firefighter gets injured.  Calvin Allison, he’s a Texas firefighter, he was, he was shot dead in R3 back in, I believe 2012. He survived, severely injured, happened during overhaul, contact voltage. When you talk to him, and the injuries were tragic, a Texas fire part, just tragic injuries from a residential house fire, injured after overhaul. He’s so grateful. He’s so good about, about investing time and messaging. He’ll drop everything to talk to you about the incident and tell you what happened and everything that he had to go through. But at no point do you ever hear Calvin talk about Blaine. That’s a good man. My question is, did we learn anything from that?

And I hope that we did, because Calvin Allison, he paid a huge price for that. And, that’s why I say our safety programs, you know, if we’re waiting for accidents to happen to adjust our safety programs, that’s a mistake. Chris, you’re a big safety guy. I know every time we talk, you’ve got the safety and welfare of your fire crews are always on your mind. What are your thoughts on how we do safety these days?

Chris Angerer: Yeah, I just had this conversation with our EH&S person here on the fire field. And, you know about Heinrich’s model when we start talking about, you know, for every 300 incidents, there’s only, I mean, there’s close calls and then there’s injuries and then there’s fatalities that pyramid gets smaller and smaller as you go up and, the thing is, I like the way you put that is the goalpost is always there and it’s always moving and what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to stay in constant focus as to what we have to do to mitigate hazards and to try to take care of our people, but we try to prevent those incidents from occurring, but it’s hard to measure success by saying, well, we only injured three people this year. It goes back to, it’s a holistic approach. My wife told me one day, she said, if that red vehicle shows up in front of their house, Chris, you better be in it and you better be breathing. I’ve always taken that to heart. You know, because you talk about family members and such, they want their family member in that vehicle, alive and breathing.

And so our best approach is to evolve and learn about the hazards and to try to control what we can control. And a lot of it is through education and helping our firefighters to understand. I just go back to your example about building construction. That was one of my big ones is this lightweight construction. I said, we’re putting people in the same houses and stuff like that. The same square footage of houses where we’ve got a hazard over the top of our head, it’ll burn through in, a third of the time that legacy construction would. And if we’re not educating our folks on how to discover that and to maintain safety and to maintain safe approaches, then we’re going to keep measuring incidents where we’re going to get people hurt, but ultimately it’s education and familiarization with those hazards. And again, those hazards are evolving regularly. It’s a constant thing where we have to keep educating and reeducating our folks and maintaining our focus because as soon as we take our focus off of that, we lose. And that’s where I sit.

Chris Greene: One thing I would say is just, I have a big thank you really for Seattle City Light and for Seattle Fire Department for really having the vision to understand that we have a gap that we need to close. They allowed this program to be fully developed without any restrictions. Meaning, what is the full breadth of the problem? I want you to define this. And so it allowed us to not become too myopic with, say, batteries or just manholes or whatever. They allowed us to get a full scope of the energy challenges facing the fire service. And that is the strength of Seattle Fire’s energy response program and technical team, specialty team. Being allowed to build that thing out, I’m so grateful for that because I was allowed to get my hands around the totality of the issue. And now I see the nexus between all of the energy hazards. I understand how they all are communicating together. So when I’m asked to teach a class, I take it seriously. I want to make sure that I’m going to give them good information. I’m proud that the questions that come up with me. That maybe are not exactly about, say, batteries, but have nexus to batteries because of an energy grid question or whatever else, I’m very proud to say that I understand all those lanes. And that’s because City Light and Seattle Fire said, we want you to develop the program fully.

And that was one of the first conversations that I had with David Coatney and really with Chris Angerer also is I wanted to work with TEEX. But I did not want to talk about energy. Without understanding the scope, if you just want to talk about batteries, I’m probably not your guy, only because I understand the nexus to all of the other problems. I can talk batteries all day long. I love nerding out, but tell me that you want to talk about the real problem, you know, tell me you want to talk about grid level problems. Tell me that you want to talk about how do I de energize a modern R3. How do I de energize? How do I address those energy needs? You know, where do I start my 360? There’s so much crossover information here and Chris and I are really in lockstep with this thing that when we started our careers, when we were developing our building construction vision, if we had been developing our energy vision at the same time, imagine where we’d all be today.

Chris Angerer: I’ll just say this. We had a really good partnership with Lubbock Power and Light, the fire department that I was in. But we didn’t dive into this thing with the tenacity that you guys did in Seattle. You know, we talked about surface issues. We talked about transformer fires. We talked about a number of different things. We talked about voltages of power lines and all of those things. But we didn’t get into the level of detail about energy response. And if you hit the nail on the head, you talk about these solar farms and things, the solar panels on roofs and, and what that means to the operations that we carry out and why it has significance. I’m in agreement with Chris on this. There’s so much more than what we have actually looked at. It will take us probably three or four hours at the least to scratch the surface on a lot of this. But I see Chris Green being the leader in this in terms of being the mouthpiece of the fire service, uh, talking about these issues and just standing on the rooftop right now, trying to scream and get people’s attention, because just like he said, it’s not just about lithium ion batteries, but there’s a lot more. He’s going to continue his journey and his voyage, so to speak, and try to keep reaching firefighters and fire departments all around the nation and all around the world to talk about what those hazards are and how they all link together. And as long as we have energy, we’re going to have hazards.

Craig Weaver: Chris Angerer, thank you so much for helping me on this. I was helping you, it felt like, so I appreciate your expertise and your willingness to be a part of this today.

Chris Angerer: I’m in the shadow of this gentleman right here, that’s all I’m going to say.

Craig Weaver: Well, Chris Green, thank you so much for your time. I know that this is a lot to talk about and I don’t want to feel like I’ve cut you off in any way. But it was good talking to you. Thank you so much for your time and expertise and willingness to be a part of this today.

Chris Greene: Absolutely. Like I said, I love working with TEEX. I’m very much looking forward to getting back to Texas.

Craig Weaver: Thank you for listening to Response Leadership, brought to you by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

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