Batteries, large and small, are essential to modernize our grid and power our homes, businesses, and vehicles. As battery technology evolves, safe practices must also evolve. Matt Paiss works at the front lines of battery safety and its intersection with fire risk and first-responder preparation.

Paiss understands how the technology works and how to impart that information to first responders. He served as a paramedic and then fire captain of the San Jose Fire Department in California for more than two decades. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, he advises national groups charged with developing safety codes and standards for stationary energy storage installations. These large battery facilities are used to store power generated from renewable energy sources such as solar (photovoltaic) and wind turbine sources. Paiss also helped develop an innovative explosion prevention system for battery energy storage installations.

“We need energy storage installed throughout our electrical grid,” said Paiss. “But not all technologies and not all chemistries make sense everywhere. We support municipalities and public safety leaders to understand the value and impact and to ensure the safe deployment of energy storage.”

In addition, Paiss has organized and served as a speaker at national and international energy storage safety and reliability workshops for electric vehicles and personal mobility devices such as scooters and e-bikes.

“There is still a lot of education that needs to happen within the emergency response community,” said Paiss. “Sometimes there's not a lot firefighters can do at a battery fire. At times, a “defensive strategy” (letting it burn) is the right decision.”

Paiss serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Protection Research Foundation. He is a frequent invited speaker to energy storage conferences and fire and first-responder training programs, providing education and training on fire response and suppression and best practices on handling lithium-ion battery fires.

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