Sign Of The Times: What You Should Know If You Own A Standby Generator Or Solar Panels

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David Snutch and Tony Stong inspect Alternate Power signage for standby generators or solar panels
Ramara Ward 1 Councillor David Snutch and Ramara Fire Chief Tony Stong inspecting the recently installed alternate power signage at Councillor Snutch’s home. Photo courtesy of Joan Mizzi-Fry

Guest article written and submitted by Ramara resident Joan Mizzi-Fry

About five years ago, David Snutch, Ramara Ward 1 Councillor, had his standby generator installed at his home in Floral Park, just south of Washago. In addition to his responsibilities as councillor, he is also chair of the Protective Services Committee. It wasn’t until recently he learned about Ramara’s alternate power signage program.

“I read about the program and reached out to our fire chief for more information,” he said. “I soon realized the importance of this signage and immediately requested one of my own.” 

According to Tony Stong, Ramara Township’s Fire Chief, although danger may not be imminent, residents should be aware of the potential issues.

“Because we use a great deal of water on a fire, we must be aware when we show up if there is a back-up generator or solar panels connected with the structure,” Stong said. “If there is still power other than the typical hydro going to the house and we’re not aware, there’s an increased risk of electrocution.”

Chief Stong credits a Ramara firefighter for creating a low tech option to communicate important information that could prevent potential complications. The “alternate power” sign is the brainchild of Ramara fire fighter Rob Smith. Formerly with the Township’s Environment Services Department, he learned first-hand the potential hazards standby generators and solar panels may cause.

How does it work? A reflective yellow sign is affixed to the green address blade.

Chief Stong is proud of this simple solution, saying, “The sign just tweaks the officer(s) responding to the call to look for those [standby generators and solar panels] and be able to isolate the power generation, which will allow us to do our fire operations safely without the possibility of electrocution because of an unknown source.”

As far as Chief Stong is aware, Ramara is the only municipality in Ontario offering this program. With support from Mayor Clarke, it is hoped the program will spark more awareness within the community.

“Today’s firefighters and other emergency responders face unexpected challenges, especially when responding to a home that uses an alternative power source, such as solar panels,” said Township of Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke. “As our firefighters cannot always see solar panels on a house at night, installing Ramara’s yellow sign provides an extra level of safety to our firefighters and others who contribute to the safety of our community.”

Alternate power signage is available through the township’s website with fees starting at $5.00 plus HST. As Councillor Snutch says, “Considering the cost for these generators starts at approximately $10,000 and solar panels are much higher, the importance of reducing the risk of harm to fire fighters, hydro workers and others is priceless.”

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