New York governor Hochul launches storage fire inspections

August 7, 2023

New York state governor Kathy Hochul has announced the creation of an ‘Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group’, which will aim to ensure the safety and security of energy storage systems across the state, following fire incidents at facilities in Jefferson, Orange, and Suffolk Counties this summer. 

A statement from the governor’s office said state agencies will begin “immediate inspections” of energy storage sites, and the working group will “help prevent fires and ensure emergency responders have the necessary training and information to prepare and deploy resources in the event of a fire”.

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) staff and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Emergency Response Unit responded to an incident in Jefferson County last month in which they supported “emergency response partners” with performing precautionary air monitoring tests in the surrounding area of the fire, the statement said. 

OFPC deployed additional personnel to Jefferson County in the aftermath of the incident to assist local fire officials in their investigation into the initial cause of the fire. The statement added that The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the DEC were continuing to monitor the situation and are prepared to provide additional support on the ground in Jefferson County. An additional investigation is underway into fires in Orange County last month.

“Following multiple fire safety incidents across New York, I’ve directed state agencies to immediately form the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to mobilise the personnel and resources necessary to keep New Yorkers safe,” Governor Hochul said. “The working group will collaborate with first responders and local leaders to identify best practices, address potential risks to public safety, and ensure energy storage sites across New York are safe and effective.”

The governor’s office said that while fires at energy storage facilities are exceedingly rare, Governor Hochul had directed the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services OFPC, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Public Service, and the Department of State (DOS) to lead the working group to independently examine energy storage facility fires and safety standards. The group will “leverage nationally renowned experts and national laboratories in energy storage root cause and emergency response analyses to independently assess and identify common causes, air monitoring results or other community impacts, and other factors involved with energy storage fires”, the statement said.

The statement continued: “The working group will thoroughly investigate the recent energy storage fires in New York and will conduct a comprehensive fire safety review, including emergency response analysis, of energy storage projects that experienced thermal runaway events across New York. Findings will include a list of recommendations for stationary energy storage equipment and installations. The working group will review energy storage system operations and operators as they: examine the condition of their batteries to verify operation within design parameters; remedy any deficiencies identified; verify operation of on-site fire suppression; and confirm fire suppression plans with local fire departments, among other best practices.”

The findings and resulting recommendations will also be shared with the New York City Fire Department, National Fire Protection Association, International Code Council, the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL).