Electric Vehicle Safety Training for first responders

May 24th, 2011 by Julie Ferguson

Our highways are increasingly being populated with an array of new vehicles, from hybrids to electric cars and variety of lesser known technologies. And every time the cost of gas spikes, more and more consumers consider the options. A newly released J.D. Power and Associates study indicates major growth in consumer interest in green cars. The firm expects as much as 10 percent of sales to come from fuel-efficient vehicles by 2016, which would be a four-fold increase in green car sales over 2010. The Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (EV), has been on sale in the U.S. market since mid-December 2010. By next year, GM believes it can sell as many as 60,000 Volts and Amperas. And other EVs have also made a recent debut: the Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus, to name but a few.
New technologies pose new challenges. When firefighters, police and other emergency personnel respond to a vehicle collision, they need to be up to speed about these new technologies and any hazards they may pose during extrication and resue. These include risks related to electric shock, unintended vehicle movement due to multiple energy sources, new types of vehicle batteries, fire extinguishment/overhaul, and vehicle charging stations and infrastructure associated with electric vehicles.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has geared up for the challenge. Funded by $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and working in partnership with several vehicle manufactureres, the NFPA has launched an Electric Vehicle Safety Training program to help firefighters, police, and emergency medical technicians to prepare for the growing number of electric vehicles on the road in the United States. Training will encompass videos, classroom-training courses, self-paced online programs, and simulations to help first responders navigate the science and components of EVs, plug-in EVs, and hybrids. Training programs will help first responders ascertain whether the car is disabled or not, provide information about how to power down vehicles, demonstrate how to safely disconnect the high-voltage system, and show safe cut points for extrication.
An NFPA Journal article entitled Taking Charge offers more details about the program. According to a spokesperson, there are about 185 different makes and models of electric vehicles on the road today. The evsafetytraining.org site “…will also serve as a central repository for all EV-related training materials, and General Motors, Ford, Nissan, Tesla, and others will provide content to the program’s e-learning component. Another website highlight will be the Emergency Field Guide Database, which will list details of every EV produced since 2008. First responders will be able to identify badging, no-cut zones, airbag locations, and power-down procedures specific to each vehicle.”
Bonus: Firehouse.com offers a behind the scene look at the filming of the program’s video staring N.H. and Nev. firefighters.
Other resources
The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) is an alternative fuel vehicle and advanced technology vehicle training organization. It is headquartered at West Virginia University and consists of National Training Centers (NTCs) located nationwide from Maine to California. NAFTC develops curricula and disseminates training about alternative fuel vehicles and advanced technology vehicles. Over 1,000 organizations such as Walt Disney World, U.S. Air Force, and NASA have participated in the NAFTC’s training, education, and outreach activities. NAFTC educates consumers about AFVs and advanced technology vehicles. In addition, the NAFTA curricula offers First Responder Safety Training in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Hydrogen Vehicles.
Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC) is an offshoot of the US Department of Energy providing a wide range of information and resources to enable the use of alternative fuels (as defined by the Energy Policy Act of 1992), in addition to other petroleum reduction options such as advanced vehicles, fuel blends, idle reduction, and fuel economy. It offers resources on alternative and advanced vehicles

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