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Lithium-ion training on a budget

10 ways to incorporate the Firefighter Safety Stand Down theme into training and education activities


Even if your department has yet to be called to an incident involving a Li-ion battery, you likely will face one of these responses in the future.


By Tom Miller

The 2023 Safety Stand Down is rapidly approaching. Have you developed your training plan yet?

For the uninitiated, the Safety Stand Down is a joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). Departments are encouraged to suspend non-emergency activities during the third week of June (this year June 18-24) to conduct training focused on a critical safety or health topic. An entire week is provided to ensure all shifts and duty crew can participate.

A hot topic

The topic for 2023 is “Lithium-Ion Batteries: Are You Ready?” In almost 40 years in the fire service, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “hotter” topic (pun intended) than the issue lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, electric vehicles (EVs) and energy storage systems (ESS). Their prevalence has impacted the entire fire service, from conducting risk assessments to fire cause and origin investigations.

Sadly, deaths across the country are now being attributed to incidents that started from these types of energy storage systems. Even if your department has yet to be called to an incident involving a Li-ion battery, you likely will face one of these responses in the future. Your firefighters need to be prepared and trained so they can respond to these incidents safely and effectively.

Fortunately, your department doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” to get resources and training on these types of incidents. There is a great deal of information already out there – much of it is solid, but some of it is not so good. The trick is to figure out which resources are the best and most cost-effective for your department. There are dozens of entities offering classes and/or trainings on EV, ESS, and/or Li-ion battery response, and some of those sessions can cost more than $10,000 for a one-day training session. This price tag isn’t an option for most fire departments.

10 tools for the Firefighter Safety Stand Down

To help departments find reputable materials while keeping costs at a minimal, the Safety Stand Down team has created a resource center – – that features many free resources and training courses. In addition, we have developed daily teaching topics that can be used by departments and organizations to help get the key safety messages to all crews.

Some departments may elect not to participate in the Stand Down for whatever reason, but resources and/or finances should not be one of those reasons.

There are lots of great resources available to individuals and fire departments for little or no cost – resources that can help you develop trainings, drills or exercises that your department can implement to become better prepared for mitigating incidents involving Li-ion batteries.

Following are 10 suggestions to help enhance your training program and better prepare your firefighters – on a budget:

1. Conduct a basic risk assessment. Take the time, as a department, to go out into your community and do a basic risk assessment. Start off by looking at call data, either empirically or anecdotally; drive through your neighborhoods and look for electric vehicles on the streets or in driveways; look at car dealerships and auto salvage and/or tow yards; look for the presence of residential or commercial alternate energy systems such as photovoltaic cells or battery energy storage systems; and go to retailers and see who is selling what in terms of rechargeable devices – everything from cordless tools to lawn equipment, to personal mobility devices (e-bikes or scooters), or home energy storage systems. Remember, these stores wouldn’t be selling this type of equipment if people weren’t buying it. Take the time to look at neighboring areas where you may provide automatic or mutual aid. Knowing your risks will help you better plan a solid training program. Come back to the station and talk about what was seen and learned. Promote the sharing of information.

2. Poll your members. Find out what information they feel is mission-critical and what information they would they like to know. Build your training plan or program around meeting their real or perceived needs.

3. Assign and take NVFC courses. Take the NVFC’s course Electric Vehicle Safety: An Awareness Level Training and the NFPA’s course Alternative Fuel Vehicles Training Program for Emergency Responders. Both are currently being offered for free and can be viewed individually or as a group as part of a station training session.

4. Review Emergency Response Guides. There are several ERGs for electric vehicles on the NFPA website. Choose two or three that you believe you may encounter in your district, and become familiar with the various components of the vehicle and the recommended response actions for first responders.

5. Study ESS information. Review and discuss the NFPA’s Energy Storage Systems Fact Sheet. This document addresses home and commercial energy storage systems and helps responders gain an alternative perspective on the presence of lithium-ion systems beyond just vehicles and mobility devices.

6. Read NTSB report. Read the National Transportation Safety Board report, Safety Risks to Emergency Responders from Lithium-Ion Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles, which provides guidance on the various response considerations for fire departments that may be faced with an electric vehicle fire.

7. Seek out FDNY material. The FDNY has several outstanding safety bulletins and reports about the hazards of personal mobility devices and micro-mobility devices. Their bulletins are fact based and have solid recommendations that have practical applicability for fire departments both big and small.

8. Start conversations with potential partners. Explore working with other key stakeholders on conducting joint training sessions on topics of mutual interest, for example, partnering with tow operators to conduct a training on handling EV incidents or with local electricians and electrical contractors for a training on home or commercial energy storage systems. Start the conversations – extend an invitation. These efforts may pay substantial dividends in the long term.

9. Explore the Safety Stand Down website. As noted, the 2023 Safety Stand Down website includes numerous resources and planning materials that can help you and your department become better prepared and more resilient for dealing with incidents involving Li-ion batteries.

10. Vet your resources. Work with your training officer or training agencies to research other vetted sources of information such as videos, fact sheets, job aids and other resources. The key word here is “vetted,” as there is a great deal of misinformation and disinformation out there. Many states have access to additional training information and resources through the EPA Clean Cities program. Some states are even able to use grant funds to provide direct training for fire departments and first responders.

Return safely after every call

By taking the time to explore and review these training options, and doing a little homework yourself, it should be easy to develop a risk and fact-based, mission-focused educational training program to help ensure that your department is prepared for the challenges faced by potential Li-ion battery incidents. The goal of the Safety Stand Down team is to make sure responders are prepared so they return safely after every call.

About the author

Tom Miller is a 38-year veteran of the West Virginia fire service. He is a Pro Board-certified Firefighter II, Fire Instructor III, and Hazardous Materials Technician & Incident Commander, and is state certified to the Technician level in various aspects of technical rescue. He has been an adjunct instructor with West Virginia University Fire Service Extension since 1990 and has written numerous courses on specialized topics relating to hazmat and emergency response and delivered them across the country. He is the West Virginia director to the NVFC and serves as chair of its Hazardous Materials Response Committee and Pandemic Response Task Group, as well as serving as a subject matter expert on many national workgroups and committees.