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Video: First responder training for luxury EV emergency response

Plus a call to manufacturers and legislators to provide more funding, education and resources to properly equip first responders

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As the electric vehicle (EV) market continues to expand at a rapid rate, the fire service is left playing catch-up to understand best practices for interacting with these vehicles in emergencies.

EV manufacturers are required to develop Emergency Response Guides (ERGs) and Quick Response Guides (QRGs) to provide first responders with basic information about the vehicles. And some manufacturers are strongly committed to providing safety and educational materials as well as training courses to first responders, and their actions should be applauded and duplicated by others. The problem: Many of the reference materials to which we have access lack the real-world details that we desperately need for proper training.

EV response tips

There are general approaches that can be learned and applied to EVs for suppression and extrication. However, EVs have unique designs and features that vary significantly among makes and models. First responders desperately need resource libraries and guidance centers that can provide fast, accurate and appropriate guidance during operations to safely and effectively manage these events.

With this in mind, let’s cover some high-level tips for first responders at EV-involved incidents:

  • Identify and avoid ALL high-voltage components: This is not as simple as the high-voltage cable and the battery pack. There are other high-voltage devices in EVs that are just as hazardous.
  • Isolate the high-voltage energy in accordance with the manufacturer recommendations: This varies from vehicle to vehicle and requires resources and guidance to perform safely.
  • Be prepared for high-energy responses in the vehicle structures: A pillars, B pillars and bulkheads on modern EVs are extremely lightweight and ultra-high strength. These materials do not deform when compressed or cut with hydraulic tools. Instead, they require maximum output of the tools and then they fracture. This tool interaction often results in violent slippage or shifting of tools, and can cause serious injury to the tool operators and first responders in close proximity.

For proper training on these tips and individual EV features, we must have access to more comprehensive resources, like the tips provided in the following Energy Security Agency video focused on one particular luxury EV.

To my knowledge, this is the first comprehensive first responder video for an EV. OEMs should follow suit.

More training and resources needed

Fire suppression is a complex operation and requires in-depth understanding of Li-ion fire behavior and vehicle/battery design. Further, many fire departments lack access to EVs and battery packs for proper research and training development. As such, we must seek training and courses that are based on real-world experience with Li-ion batteries and EVs. And we must continue to press EV manufacturers and our legislators to provide more funding, education and resources to properly equip us for response.

Existing resources

  • ERGs and QRGs are available online and via mobile apps. Check out NFPA, Moditech and the Euro RESCUE app, to name a few.
  • Some manufacturers, such as Tesla, provide call support services for first responders, but it is often restricted to normal business hours and not designed to provide detailed guidance for extrication and suppression.

Let us remain vigilant in seeking as much education and practical training as possible to keep up with this constantly evolving challenge.

Dalan Zartman is a 20-year career veteran of the fire service and president and founder of Rescue Methods, LLC. He is assigned to a heavy rescue and is an active leader as a member of both local and national tech rescue response teams. Zartman has delivered fire and technical rescue training courses and services around the globe for more than 15 years. He is also an international leader in fire-based research, testing, training and consulting related to energy storage, and serves as the COO at the Energy Security Agency. Zartman serves as regional training program director and advisory board member for the Bowling Green State University State Fire School. He is a certified rescue instructor, technical rescue specialist, public safety diver, fire instructor II, firefighter II, and EMTP.