Fire Codes for Energy Storage Systems

January 4th, 2017 Print This Post Print This Post

ESSIn recent years, there has been a marked increase in the deployment of various types of battery technologies for use in Energy Storage Systems (ESS). Code enforcing bodies, such as local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), are asked to successfully address risks associated with these new battery technologies. However, there is little or no guidance and direction on how to deal with associated hazards, or more specifically, on how to review a successful fire protection approach.

Li-ion Battery Technologies

There are many different battery technologies used in the application of ESS. Let’s consider Lithium-ion technology as an example. While Lithium-ion battery technologies are commonly used, it is easily forgotten that Lithium-ion is not one specific battery chemistry or technology, but rather a catch-all term for hundreds of different chemistries each fine-tuned for a specific product or application (e.g. Li-CoO2, Li-MnO2, Li-NO2, Li-AlO2, Li-TiO3, Li-FePO4, LiNiMnCoO2, LiNiCoAlO2). Furthermore, when talking about fire risks and how to negotiate these risks, many influencing factors come into play, such as the battery management system employed, the size and type of cooling (air-cooled vs. liquid cooled), whether these batteries are connected to an electrical grid or only stored for later use in a grid, etc.

In the case of storage and warehousing of low-capacity Lithium-ion batteries (e.g., power packs for power tools), fire tests have been performed1,2,3 to evaluate the fire dynamics (fire behavior) in rack storage. It was found that storage configurations with cartoned power tool power packs burn similarly to cartoned Group A plastics. Furthermore, it was noted that changes in the components of the packaging can significantly impact the flammability characteristics of cartoned Li-ion batteries, such as the divider used to separate the batteries within the cartons.3 These tests also demonstrated that conventional water sprinkler systems can control or suppress these types of fires. For these kinds of storage scenarios NFPA 134 and FM Global’s Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets5, will provide directions on how to successfully protect cartoned (Lithium-ion) batteries.

Energy Storage Systems

However, these low-capacity power packs hold little electrical power compared to the large battery arrays deployed in Energy Storage Systems – the much larger cousins to ‘household’ batteries, capable of storing much more electrical energy. In many cases, the difference in power among these battery categories is orders of magnitude i.e., the typical industrial ESS array can store 100,000 times the power of a typical consumer battery system. Therefore, it is not surprising that the risks associated with Energy Storage Systems require careful review and assessment of all associated hazards. It is these types of ESS that we would like to discuss in more detail, namely to highlight some of their risks and provide ways of addressing them.

High-capacity Energy Storage Systems are often used in facilities like hospitals, data centers, airports, high-rise office buildings, residences (for the storage of solar energy), or electric utility companies to address swings in electric loads during spikes in demand. The specific hazards inherent in ESS are typically arcing, combustion, fire, toxicity, and voltage. Additional hazards arise from battery fires after suppression, such as re-ignition hazards and electrical shock to both first responders and removal personnel.

New and Emerging Battery Technologies

Battery chemistries for ESS have been in development for over a decade and new battery technologies will continue to be developed for the foreseeable future. Manufacturers are not incentivized to share proprietary information on their latest battery chemistry or technology, which makes the application of codes and standards, as well as the identification of a proper emergency response plan, more difficult. Information on the chemical makeup or physical and health hazards presented in the form of (M)SDS needs to be carefully reviewed and verified. All too often, systems are categorized based on energy capacity (kilowatt-hours) only, which is not very helpful in assessing their fire risks. For hazard assessment purposes, it would be better to categorize ESS batteries by technology and chemistry, as hazards differ significantly among those.

Many of the current battery technologies can be categorized into Lead Acid (vented, VRLA), Nickel Cadmium, Li-ion, Sodium Sulfur (NAS), and Flow Batteries (tank based energy storage). There are other types of batteries, sometimes in the form of a hybrid between these battery types or the materials used. Therefore, this categorization is somewhat of a simplification and may change in the future as new technologies emerge.

Regardless of whether active fire protection systems (water sprinkler systems, gaseous suppression systems, etc.) and/or passive fire protection systems (separation, location, etc.) are employed, they are all dependent on how ESS battery types and chemistries perform in fire situations. Oftentimes, different battery technologies perform differently under the same conditions.

Code Development

NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation sponsored an ESS safety workshop in November 2015. The event hosted a panel of 60 leading professionals from government, the insurance industry, the fire service, utilities, the ESS industry, the codes and standards world, and other disciplines to discuss the current state of ESS, as well as gaps in safety knowledge, codes and standards considerations, and research.6 NFPA set up a technical committee to develop new standards for the installation of energy storage systems, and as part of this effort approved NFPA 8557, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, earlier this year to address the design, construction, installation, and commissioning of ESS. The new standard is still in the early development stages.

The International Code Council, publisher of the International Fire Code, has already developed a code language that will address design, installation, and deployment for a successful emergency response in the event of a fire. This code language was discussed during last year’s code development hearings and is expected to be included in the 2018 edition of the International Fire Code. Statewide adoption of the International Fire Code (with state specific amendments) occurs some time thereafter, or in the case of California one year later.

FM Global has been working on a new Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet for Energy Storage Systems, DS 5-33. It was released in February 2017. This new data sheet8 addresses many aspects of Energy Storage Systems including protection, operation and maintenance, emergency response and contingency planning.

From these various workshops and discussions a level of consensus was reached that allows the code practitioner to address fire and life safety issues originating from the installation and deployment of energy storage systems. It is this consensus from experts that we would like to discuss, while also highlighting some of the issues of deploying ESS and reviewing the current thinking on how to address them successfully.

When specifying or reviewing the fire safety of an energy storage system, codes and regulations often represent the “first line of defense.” Nevertheless, not every situation can or will be covered by the fire codes for any specific ESS installation or deployment. This is why the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can request additional information.

Considerations

When applying these new ESS fire codes (shown below), the following issues should be considered:

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  • Third Party Verification: (M)SDS information from various manufacturers is classified differently and the hazards associated with the different battery technologies are sometimes not considered. Therefore, the classifications based on (M)SDS, the verification of hazards based on ingredients, and the appropriate hazard mitigation for each type of battery need to be verified by a third party other than the manufacturer.
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  • Electrolytes: If liquid electrolytes are used, the chemical composition and individual quantities need to be carefully reviewed to account for maximum allowable quantities. Some (M)SDS are incomplete, so they do not show the actual hazards associated with the particular battery systems. It takes an experienced hazardous materials expert to verify the actual classification based on the ingredients in the batteries.
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  • Fire Suppression: Battery chemistries differ among ESS installations, so specific extinguishing agent(s) need to be matched to the hazard(s). A single agent may not provide optimum protection characteristics depending on the specific ESS application they are protecting. In general, large amounts of water have been shown to be effective, yet chemical suppressants need to be considered for batteries that are water-reactive.
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  • Gaseous & Chemical Suppression: Gaseous & chemical suppression may be the best way to suppress fires in ESS with water-reactive batteries. However, these systems are only designed for one-time use. Re-ignition in these types of battery systems is very common. At the very least, having a backup suppression agent should be considered. Water suppression is often the cheapest solution, but that application must be weighed against the potential for fire due to re-ignition.
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  • Post Fire: Damaged ESS using batteries can still have stranded electrical energy. This can lead to unsafe conditions for long periods of time (e.g., days or even weeks) due to re-occurring thermal runaway causing re-ignition, even long after the fire is fully extinguished. At that time, battery management systems or safety sensors are compromised and can no longer be relied on. There is also the consideration of first responder and post-fire cleanup personnel safety, due to the stranded electrical energy in the batteries.
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  • Site Location: The installation location is a critical consideration for manual firefighting efforts. Systems located on upper floors present a much greater concern than those on the ground floor or an isolated exterior location. Outdoor systems located in non-occupiable spaces are less likely to create dangerous situations for personnel safety.
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  • Environmental Impact: Runoff and spillage of ESS pose environmental risks based on the battery chemistry and the volume spilled. Additionally, the combined suppression water when mixed with ESS chemicals creates a larger environmental burden. Spill control and environmental protection may need to be incorporated due to the hazards (toxicities) posed by the use of ESS. Responsibilities and accountabilities for decontamination and cleanup in the event of a fire need to be clearly identified.
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  • Categorization: Currently the MAQs (in Table 608.3 of IFC 2018) are based on capacity and battery technology, but it may be better to provide subcategories based on the hazard class of the lithium batteries. In other words, there is a probability of ignition and a severity component associated with wattage (due to stranded electrical energy), as well as the extent of damage and spread of the fire due to the chemical components of these batteries. Therefore, the chemistry (highly water-reactive chemical components versus stable chemicals, etc.) of the battery should also be considered when evaluating these systems.

    International Fire Codes for Energy Storage Systems (Stationary Storage Battery Systems)

    Below we included Section 608 of the 2018 International Fire Code developed for Stationary Storage Battery Systems (with permission of the International Code Council9).

    Stationary Storage Battery Systems - 2018 International Fire Code* (click here).

    SECTION 608 STATIONARY STORAGE BATTERY SYSTEMS

    608.1 Scope. Stationary storage battery systems having capacities exceeding the values shown in Table 608.1 shall comply with Section 608.1.2 through 608.6.6, as applicable.

    TABLE 608.1 BATTERY STORAGE SYSTEM THRESHOLD QUANTITIES.

    BATTERY TECHNOLOGY CAPACITY a
    Lead acid, all types70 KWh (252 Megajoules)
    Nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd), all types70 KWh (252 Megajoules)
    Lithium, all types20 KWh (72 Megajoules)
    Sodium, all types20 KWh (72 Megajoules) c
    Flow batteries b 20 KWh (72 Megajoules)
    Other battery technologies 10 KWh (36 Megajoules)

    a. For batteries rated in Amp-Hours, KWh shall equal rated voltage times amp-hour rating divided by 1000
    b. Shall include vanadium, zinc-bromine, polysulfide-bromide, and other flowing electrolyte type technologies
    c. 70 KWh (252 Mega joules) for sodium-ion technologies

    608.1.1 Permits. Permits shall be obtained for the installation and operation of stationary storage battery systems in accordance with Section 105.7.2.

    608.1.2 Construction documents. The following information shall be provided with the permit application:

    1. Location and layout diagram of the room in which the stationary storage battery system is to be installed.
    2. Details on hourly fire-resistant rated assemblies provided.
    3. Quantities and types of storage batteries and battery systems.
    4. Manufacturer’s specifications, ratings and listings of storage batteries and battery systems.
    5. Details on energy management systems.
    6. Location and content of signage.
    7. Details on fire suppression, smoke detection and ventilation systems.
    8. Rack storage arrangement, including seismic support criteria.

    608.1.3 Hazard mitigation analysis. A failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) or other approved hazard mitigation analysis shall be provided in accordance with Section 104.7.2 under any of the following conditions:

    1. Battery technologies not specifically identified in Table 608.1 are provided.
    2. More than one stationary storage battery technology is provided in a room or indoor area where there is a potential for adverse interaction between technologies
    3. When allowed as a basis for increasing maximum allowable quantities. See 608.3.

    608.1.3.1 Fault condition. The hazard mitigation analysis shall evaluate the consequences of the following failure modes, and others deemed necessary by the fire code official. Only single failure modes shall be considered.

    1. Thermal runaway condition in a single battery storage rack, module or array.
    2. Failure of any energy management system.
    3. Failure of any required ventilation system.
    4. Voltage surges on the primary electric supply.
    5. Short circuits on the load side of the stationary battery storage system.
    6. Failure of the smoke detection, fire suppression, or gas detection system.
    7. Spill neutralization not being provided or failure of the secondary containment system.

    608.1.3.2 Analysis approval. The fire code official is authorized to approve the hazardous mitigation analysis provided the consequences of the hazard mitigation analysis demonstrate:

    1. Fires or explosions will be contained within unoccupied battery storage rooms for the minimum duration of the fire resistance rated walls identified in IBC table 509.1.
    2. Fires and explosions in battery cabinets in occupied work centers will be detected in time to allow occupants within the room to safely evacuate.
    3. Toxic and highly toxic gases released during fires and other fault conditions shall not reach concentrations in access of IDLH level in the building or adjacent means of egress routes during the time deemed necessary to evacuate from that area.
    4. Flammable gases released from batteries during charging, discharging and normal operation shall not exceed 25% of their lower flammability limit (LFL).
    5. Flammable gases released from batteries during fire, overcharging and other abnormal conditions shall not create an explosion hazard that will injure occupants or emergency responders.

    608.1.3.3 Additional protection measures. Construction, equipment and systems that are required for the stationary storage battery system to comply with the hazardous mitigation analysis, including but not limited to those specifically described in Section 608.1, shall be installed, maintained and tested in accordance with nationally recognized standards and specified design parameters.

    608.1.4 Seismic and structural design. Stationary storage battery systems shall comply with the seismic design requirements in Chapter 16 of the International Building Code, and shall not exceed the floor loading limitation of the building.

    608.1.5 Vehicle impact protection. Where stationary storage battery systems are subject to impact by a motor vehicle, including fork lifts, vehicle impact protection shall be provided in accordance with Section 312.

    608.1.6 Combustible storage. Combustible materials not related to the stationary storage battery system shall not be stored in battery rooms, cabinets or enclosures. Combustible materials in occupied work centers covered by Section 608.2.5 shall not be stored less than 3 feet (915 mm) from battery cabinets.

    608.1.7 Testing, maintenance and repairs. Storage batteries and associated equipment and systems shall be tested and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Any storage batteries or system components used to replace existing units shall be compatible with the battery charger, energy management systems, other storage batteries, and other safety systems. Introducing other types of storage batteries into the stationary storage battery system, or other types of electrolytes into flow battery systems shall be treated as a new installation and require approval by the fire code official before the replacements are introduced into service.

    608.2 Location and construction. Rooms and areas containing stationary storage battery systems shall be designed, located and constructed in accordance with this section.

    608.2.1 Location. Stationary storage battery systems shall not be located in areas where the floor is located more than 75 feet (22 860 mm) above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access, or where the floor level is more than 30 feet (9144 mm) below the finished floor of the lowest level of exit discharge.

    Exceptions:

    1. Lead acid and nickel cadmium stationary storage battery systems.
    2. Installations on noncombustible rooftops of buildings exceeding 75 feet (22 860 mm) in height that do not obstruct fire department rooftop operations shall be permitted where approved by the fire code official.

    608.2.2 Separation. Rooms containing stationary storage battery systems shall be separated from other areas of the building in accordance with Section 509.1 of the International Building Code. Battery systems shall be allowed to be in the same room with the equipment they support.

    608.2.3 Stationary battery arrays. Storage batteries, prepackaged stationary storage battery systems and pre-engineered stationary storage battery systems shall be segregated into stationary battery arrays not exceeding 50 KWh (180 Mega joules) each. Each stationary battery array shall be spaced a minimum three feet (914 mm) from other stationary battery arrays and from walls in the storage room or area. The storage arrangements shall comply with Chapter 10.

    Exceptions:

    1. Lead acid and nickel cadmium stationary storage battery systems.
    2. Listed pre-engineered stationary storage battery systems and prepackaged stationary storage battery systems shall not exceed 250 KWh (900 Mega joules) each.
    3. The fire code official is authorized to approve listed pre-engineered and prepackaged battery arrays with larger capacities or smaller battery array spacing if large scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved testing laboratory is provided showing that a fire involving one array will not propagate to an adjacent array, and be contained within the room for a duration equal to the fire resistance rating of the room separation specified in Table 509 of the International Building Code.

    608.2.4 Separate rooms. Where stationary batteries are installed in a separate equipment room accessible only to authorized personnel, they shall be permitted to be installed on an open rack for ease of maintenance.

    608.2.5 Occupied work centers. Where stationary storage batteries are located in an occupied work center, they shall be housed in a noncombustible cabinet or other enclosure to prevent access by unauthorized personnel.

    608.2.5.1 Cabinets. Where stationary batteries are contained in cabinets in occupied work centers, the cabinet enclosures shall be located within 10 feet (3048 mm) of the equipment that they support.

    608.2.6 Signage. Approved signs shall be provided on doors or in locations near entrances to stationary storage battery system rooms and shall include the following or equivalent.

    1. The room contains energized battery systems.
    2. The room contains energized electrical circuits.
    3. The additional markings required in Section 608.6 for the types of storage batteries contained within the room.

    Exception: Existing stationary storage battery systems shall be permitted to include the signage required at the time it was installed.

    608.2.6.1 Electrical disconnects. Where the stationary storage battery system disconnecting means is not within sight of the main service disconnecting means, placards or directories shall be installed at the location of the main service disconnecting means indicating the location of stationary storage battery system disconnecting means in accordance with NFPA 70.

    608.2.6.2 Cabinet signage. Battery storage cabinets provided in occupied work centers in accordance with Section 608.2.5 shall have exterior labels that identify the manufacturer and mode number for the system and electrical rating (voltage and current) of the contained battery system. There shall be signs within the cabinet that indicate the relevant electrical, chemical and hazards, as required by Section 608.6.

    608.2.7 Outdoor installations. Stationary storage battery systems located outdoors shall comply with this Section, in addition to all applicable requirements of Section 608. Installations in outdoor enclosures or containers which can be occupied for servicing, testing, maintenance and other functions shall be treated as battery storage rooms.

    Exception: Stationary battery arrays in noncombustible containers shall not be required to be spaced three feet (914 mm) from the container walls.

    608.2.7.1 Separation. Stationary storage battery systems located outdoors shall be separated by a minimum five feet (1524 mm) from the following:

    1. Lot lines
    2. Public ways
    3. Buildings
    4. Stored combustible materials
    5. Hazardous materials
    6. High-piled stock
    7. Other exposure hazards

    Exception: The fire code official is authorized to approve smaller separation distances if large scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved testing laboratory is provided showing that a fire involving the system will not adversely impact occupant egress from adjacent buildings, or adversely impact adjacent stored materials or structures.

    608.2.7.2 Means of egress. Stationary storage battery systems located outdoors shall be separated from any means of egress as required by the fire code official to ensure safe egress under fire conditions, but in no case less than 10 feet (3048 mm).

    Exception: The fire code official is authorized to approve smaller separation distances if large scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved testing laboratory is provided showing that a fire involving the system will not adversely impact occupant egress.

    608.2.7.3 Security of outdoor areas. Outdoor areas in which stationary storage battery systems are located shall be secured against unauthorized entry and safeguarded in an approved manner.

    608.2.7.4 Walk-in units where a stationary storage battery system includes an outer enclosure, the unit shall only be entered for inspection, maintenance and repair of batteries and electronics, and shall not be occupied for other purposes.

    608.3 Maximum allowable quantities. Fire areas within buildings containing stationary storage batteries systems exceeding the maximum allowable quantities in Table 608.3 shall comply with all applicable High Hazard Group H occupancy requirements in this code and the International Building Code.

    Exception: Where approved by the fire code official, areas containing stationary storage batteries that exceed the amounts in Table 608.3 shall be permitted to be treated as incidental use areas and not Group H occupancies based on a hazardous mitigation analysis in accordance with 608.1.3 and large scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved testing laboratory.

    TABLE 608.3 MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE BATTERY QUANTITIES

    BATTERY TECHNOLOGY MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE QUANTITIES aGROUP H OCCUPANCY
    Lead acid, all types unlimited N/A
    Nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd)unlimited N/A
    Lithium, all types 600 KWh Group H-2
    Sodium, all types 600 KWh Group H-2
    Flow batteries b600 KWh Group H-2
    Other battery technologies 200 KWh Group H-2 c

    a. For batteries rated in Amp-Hours, KWh shall equal rated voltage times amp-hour rating divided by 1000
    b. Shall include vanadium, zinc-bromine, polysulfide-bromide, and other flowing electrolyte type technologies
    c. Shall be a Group H-4 occupancy if the fire code official determines that a fire or thermal runaway involving
        the battery technology does not represent a significant fire hazard

    608.3.1 Mixed battery systems. Where areas within buildings contain different types of storage battery technologies, the total aggregate quantities of batteries shall be determined based on the sum of percentages of each battery type quantity divided by the maximum allowable quantity of each battery type. If the sum of the percentages exceeds 100%, the area shall be treated as high-hazard Group H occupancy in accordance with Table 608.3.

    608.4 Storage batteries and equipment. The design and installation of storage batteries and related equipment shall comply with these sections 608.4.1 through 608.4.8.

    608.4.1 Listings. Storage batteries and battery storage systems shall comply with all of the following:

    1. Storage batteries shall be listed in accordance with UL 1973.
    2. Prepackaged and pre-engineered stationary storage battery systems shall be listed in accordance with UL 9540.

    Exception: Lead-acid batteries are not required to be listed.

    608.4.2 Prepackaged and pre-engineered systems. Prepackaged and pre-engineered stationary storage battery systems shall be installed in accordance with their listing and the manufacturer’s instructions.

    608.4.3 Energy management system. An approved energy management system shall be provided for battery technologies other than lead acid and nickel cadmium for monitoring and balancing cell voltages, currents and temperatures within the manufacturer’s specifications. The system shall transmit an alarm signal to an approved location if potentially hazardous temperatures or other conditions such as short circuits, overvoltage (overcharge) or under voltage (over discharge) are detected.

    608.4.4 Battery chargers. Battery chargers shall be compatible with the battery chemistry and the manufacturer’s electrical ratings and charging specifications. Battery chargers shall be listed and labeled in accordance with the UL 1564 or provided as part of a listed pre-engineered or prepackaged stationary storage battery system.

    608.4.5 Inverters. Inverters shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 1741. Only inverters listed and labeled for utility interactive system use and identified as interactive shall be allowed to operate in parallel with the electric utility power system to supply power to common loads.

    608.4.6 Safety caps. Vented batteries shall be provided with flame-arresting safety caps.

    608.4.7 Thermal runaway. Where required by Section 608.6 storage batteries shall be provided with a listed device or other approved method to prevent, detect and control thermal runaway.

    608.4.8 Toxic and highly toxic gas. Stationary storage battery systems that have the potential to release toxic and highly toxic gas during charging, discharging and normal use conditions shall comply with Chapter 60.

    608.5 Suppression and detection systems. Suppression and detection systems shall be provided in accordance with Sections 608.5.1 through 608.5.5.

    608.5.1 Fire suppression systems. Rooms containing stationary storage battery systems shall be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with Section 903.3.1.1. Commodity classifications for specific technologies of storage batteries shall be in accordance with Chapter 5 of NFPA 13. If the storage battery types are not addressed in Chapter 5 of NFPA 13, the fire code official is authorized to approve the fire suppression system based on full scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved laboratory.

    Exception: Spaces or areas containing stationary storage battery systems used exclusively for telecommunications equipment in accordance with Section 903.2.

    608.5.1.1 Alternative suppression systems. Battery systems that utilize water reactive materials shall be protected by an approved alternative automatic fire- extinguishing system in accordance with Section 904. The system shall be listed for protecting the type, arrangement and quantities of storage batteries in the room. The fire code official shall be permitted to approve the alternate fire suppression system based on full scale fire and fault condition testing conducted or witnessed and reported by an approved laboratory.

    608.5.2 Smoke detection system. An approved automatic smoke detection system shall be installed in rooms containing stationary storage battery systems in accordance with Section 907.2.

    608.5.3 Ventilation. Where required by Section 608.6 or Section 608.1.3, ventilation of rooms containing stationary storage battery systems shall be provided in accordance with the International Mechanical Code and the following:

    1. The ventilation system shall be designed to limit the maximum concentration of flammable gas to 25% of the lower flammability limit, or for hydrogen 1.0 percent of the total volume of the room; or.
    2. Continuous ventilation shall be provided at a rate of not less than 1 cubic foot per minute (cfm) per square foot [0.00508m3/(s • m2)] of floor area, but not less than 150 cfm (4 m3/min).
    3. The exhaust system shall be designed to provide air movement across all parts of the floor for gases having a vapor density greater than air and across all parts of the ceiling for gases having a vapor density less than air.

    608.5.3.1 Cabinet ventilation. Where cabinets located in occupied spaces contain the storage batteries that are required by Section 608.6 or 608.1.3 to be provided with ventilation, the cabinet shall be provided with ventilation in accordance with Section 608.5.3.

    608.5.3.2 Supervision. Required mechanical ventilation systems for rooms and cabinets containing storage batteries shall be supervised by an approved central station, proprietary or remote station service or shall initiate an audible and visual signal at an approved constantly attended on-site location.

    608.5.4 Gas detection system. Where required by Section 608.6 or 608.1.3, rooms containing stationary storage battery systems shall be protected by a gas detection system complying with Section 916. The gas detection system shall be designed to activate where the level of flammable gas exceeds 25 percent of the lower flammable limit (LFL), or where the level of toxic or highly toxic gas exceeds 1/2 of the IDLH.

    608.5.4.1 System activation. Activation of the gas detection system shall result in all the following:

    1. Initiation of distinct audible and visible alarms in the battery storage room.
    2. Transmission of an alarm to an approved location.
    3. De-energizing of the battery charger.
    4. Activation of the mechanical ventilation system, where the system is interlocked with the gas detection system.

    Exception: Lead acid and nickel cadmium stationary storage battery systems shall not be required to comply with items 1, 2, and 3 above.

    608.5.5 Spill control and neutralization. Where required by Section 608.6, approved methods and materials shall be provided for the control and neutralization of spills of electrolyte or other hazardous materials in areas containing stationary storage batteries as follows:

    1. For batteries with free-flowing electrolyte, the method and materials shall be capable of neutralizing a spill of the total capacity from the largest cell or block to a pH between 5.0 and 9.0.
    2. For batteries with immobilized electrolyte, the method and material shall be capable of neutralizing a spill of 3.0 percent of the capacity of the largest cell or block in the room to a pH between 5.0 and 9.0.

    608.6 Specific battery type requirements. This section includes requirements applicable to specific types of storage batteries. Stationary storage battery systems with more than one type of storage battery shall comply with requirements applicable to each battery type.

    608.6.1 Lead acid storage batteries. Stationary battery systems utilizing lead acid storage batteries shall comply with the following:

    1. Ventilation shall be provided in accordance with Section 608.5.3.
    2. Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 608.5.5.
    3. Thermal runaway protection shall be provided for VRLA storage batteries in accordance with Section 608.4.7.
    4. The signage in Section 608.2.6 shall also indicate the room contains Lead Acid batteries.

    608.6.2 Nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd) storage batteries. Stationary battery systems utilizing nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd) storage batteries shall comply with the following:

    1. Ventilation shall be provided in accordance with Section 608.5.3.
    2. Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 608.5.5.
    3. Thermal runaway protection shall be provided for valve regulated sealed nickel cadmium storage batteries in accordance with Section 608.4.7.
    4. The signage in Section 608.2.6 shall also indicate the room contains nickel cadmium batteries.

    608.6.3 Lithium-ion storage batteries. The signage in Section 608.2.6 shall also indicate the type of lithium batteries contained in the room.

    608.6.4 Sodium beta storage batteries. Stationary battery systems utilizing sodium beta storage batteries shall comply with the following:

    1. Ventilation shall be provided in accordance with Section 608.5.3.
    2. The signage in Section 608.2.6 shall also indicate the type of sodium batteries in the room and APPLY NO WATER.

    608.6.5 Flow batteries. Stationary battery systems utilizing flow storage batteries shall comply with the following:

    1. Ventilation shall be provided in accordance with Section 608.5.3.
    2. Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 608.5.5.
    3. The signage required in Section 608.2.6 shall also indicate the type of flow batteries in the room.

    608.6.6 Other battery technologies. Stationary battery systems utilizing battery technologies other than those described in Sections 608.6.1 through 608.6.5 shall comply with the following:

    1. Gas detection systems complying with Section 916 shall be provided in accordance with Section 608.5.4 where the batteries have the potential to produce toxic or highly toxic gas in the storage room or cabinet in excess of the permissible exposure limits (PEL) during charging, discharging and normal system operation.
    2. Mechanical ventilation shall be provided in accordance with Section 608.5.3.
    3. Spill control and neutralization shall be in accordance with Section 608.5.5.
    4. In addition to the signage required in Section 608.2.6, the marking shall identify the type of batteries present, describe the potential hazards associated with the battery type, and indicate the room contains energized electrical circuits.

    * We do not guarantee or warrant the accuracy or completeness of the cited IFC regulations. Section 608 of the 2018 International Fire Code. Excerpted from the 2015 Group A Proposed Changes to the I-Codes Memphis Committee Hearings; Copyright © 2015 International Code Council, Inc., www.iccsafe.org. All rights reserved. Excerpts reprinted with permission.

    References

    [1] Working Towards Protection Guidance for Warehouse Storage Li-ion Batteries, FM GLOBAL, Benjamin Ditch, FM Global, Tom Long, Exponent Inc., SUPDET 2016, March 1–4, San Antonio TX
    [2] Lithium Ion Battery Energy Storage System Fires, Andrew Blum, R. Thomas Long, SUPDET 2016, Exponent Inc., March 2, San Antonio TX
    [3] Lithium Ion Batteries Hazard and Use Assessment – Phase III, R. Thomas Long Jr., Andrew Blum, Exponent Inc., Bowie, Maryland USA, 2016
    [4] NFPA 13, 2016 Edition, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA
    [5] FM Global’s Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 7-29, Ignitable Liquid Storage in Portable Containers, Fire Protection Scheme A, Section D.2.2.1, FM Global, July 2014
    [6] Workshop on Energy Storage Systems and the Built Environment, Proceedings, 19 November 2015 in New York, Fire Protection Research Foundation, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA, March 2016
    [7] NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA
    [8] FM DS 5-33, Electrical Energy Storage Systems, FM Insurance Company, 2017
    [9] Section 608 of the 2018 International Fire Code. Excerpted from the 2015 2015 Group A Proposed Changes to the I-Codes Memphis Committee Hearings; Copyright © 2015 International Code Council, Inc., www.iccsafe.org. All rights reserved. Excerpts reprinted with permission.

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