Training Educates Firefighters About Risks Associated with New Refrigerants

With more than 200 countries agreeing to usher in a new class of refrigerants, effective this year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and its research affiliate, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (Research Foundation), have released online training for the fire service, as well as an instructor-led training module, to educate firefighters about the potential hazards associated with new refrigeration and cooling units. 

The new accord calls for low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants to be used in residential and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems around the world. This push for more sustainable solutions is driving the need for firefighters to learn about potential flammability and toxicity risks, asphyxiation challenges, jet stream fires, transportation issues, and other life safety considerations associated with flammable refrigerants. 

To help educate members of the fire service in the U.S., FEMA provided funding to NFPA to develop training on this emerging technology – just as NFPA has done in the past to inform firefighters about alternative fuel vehicles and energy storage systems. The approximately one-hour curriculum provides an overview of the GWP transition and highlights specific dangers that firefighters may encounter when responding to incidents where new flammable refrigerants are present. 

Four modules feature videos, animations (including 3D animations), simulations, and review missions so that students can: 

  • Describe why the new generation of refrigerants has been developed
  • Identify where flammable refrigerants are likely to be found in residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation contexts
  • Describe the main hazards presented by the new generation of refrigerants (flammability, toxicity, pressure release)
  • Relate the refrigerant charge size to the level of risk
  • Evaluate the hazards present in a particular situation involving flammable refrigerants
  • Adapt response tactics to mitigate consequences from refrigerants in different types of emergencies. 

Additionally, the course emphasizes strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), PPE and SCBA protocol, and decontamination practices when answering calls that involve flammable refrigerants.

“Firefighters have an inherently dangerous job that requires them to follow SOPs and take steps to learn about the emerging threats that put people, property and themselves at risk,” says Ed Conlin, director of NFPA Emergency Response and Responder Safety Division. “The presence of flammable refrigerants at a response call in the future is highly likely, and as such, warrants the need for responders in departments of every type, size and setting to learn all that they can about these systems and proper response strategies.”

NFPA’s online Flammable Refrigerant Training for the Fire Service is available at no cost. Those that successfully complete the training will receive a certificate of completion. To take the training, learn more about instructor-led opportunities in your area, and access related resources visit online.

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