First Responders Learn to Tackle Electric Vehicle Accidents
Fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical service personnel throughout the U.S. have been attending training sessions to learn how to deal with electric and hybrid vehicles that have been involved in accidents. The training is being provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a nonprofit group that received a $4.4 million grant for the program from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The project has been developed to support the DOE’s goal of increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road, according to Electric Vehicle Safety Training, a project of the NFPA. To support that goal, it is important for the public to have confidence that firefighters and other first responders are trained to deal with emergencies involving such vehicles. The training is based on research and findings from the Fire Protection Research Foundation, NFPA, automobile manufacturers, and other experts.
In an online audio clip, Casey Grant, the research director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, says the key issues for fire fighters responding to a traffic accident are: to identify what type of vehicle has been involved in a crash; realizing it uses a different technology than gasoline-powered vehicles; determining how different it is; and ascertaining what those differences are.
“For the most part, electric vehicles are like other vehicles,” he says. But he points out that it is not always so easy to identify those cars that are electric-powered when a collision has changed the way they look. He says it is always important for first responders to power down the vehicle, which may be difficult, because sometimes there is no easy way to determine that electric cars are still turned on.
As Chris Lehman reports for OPB.org:
It’s no surprise that an electric car might have more electricity pulsating through it than a regular car. So, how much power does it take?
Okay, not as much as the 1.21 gigawatts from the time-traveling DeLorean in Back to the Future. But Matt Paiss of the National Fire Protection Association says an electric car can pack quite the punch.
‘Traditional vehicles operate at 12 volts,’ he says. ‘These have a high-voltage battery pack that can be upwards of 400 volts DC.’
Paiss said it is very important for police and firefighters to know the answers to such questions as: If you’re cutting open a high-voltage vehicle to remove an accident victim, what do you need to avoid to not get electrocuted?
Another problem fire fighters have when dealing with an electric vehicle accident is locating the vehicle’s battery pack, James Carroll, program manager at the Connecticut Fire Academy, told Al Hemingway of Claims Journal. “Because, depending on the make and model, it could be under the hood, in the trunk, under the seat, or even in the wheel well,” Carroll said.
Firefighters always have had to be careful when extricating victims from a vehicle, fire association instructor Christopher Pepler said.
Fuel lines, brake lines, and airbag deployment lines always have been a concern, but now emergency personnel need to be cautious of the battery ‘cut points’ that may cause an electric shock, he explained.
Pepler said that the high strength steel being used in electric and hybrid cars is creating additional concerns. Although the cars are 75 percent lighter, they are now 15 percent stronger, making it difficult for firefighters to cut through it to reach anyone trapped inside. Pepler said.
Another possible danger is a battery breach, Pepler said, in which fluids can leak onto the ground, creating an environmental hazard.
‘The manufacturers have put gel inside the battery pack, not acid like a conventional battery,’ he explained. ‘That makes it easier in a cleanup because it stays contained.’
You can see a frequently asked questions list for electric and hybrid vehicle safety from Electro Automotive here: http://www.electroauto.com/info/safe.shtml.
And you can see videos about Electric Vehicle Safety Training here: http://www.evsafetytraining.org/Resources/Videos.aspx.
Image by National Fire Protection Association’s Electric Vehicle Safety Training, used under Fair Use: Reporting.