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First Responder Training Resources

National Fire Protection Association Guidelines for First Responders and Electric Vehicles

Reference Training Videos:

(3/9/2012)
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in conjunction with National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA):

(3/5/2013):
This very informative and descriptive video, “Emergency Response to Electric Vehicles” was created by Brock Archer and Ron Moore in conjunction with Tesla Motors and the Fremont, CA fire department:

http://youtu.be/ntK3rvVl2Qw

A link to the Tesla Motors video presentation with supplemental extraction information can also be found at the Boron Extraction website:

http://www.boronextrication.com/2013/03/01/tesla-ev-safety-extrication-training-video/#.VDLDUwVIto0.gmail

On January 17th, 2013, the Nevada Electric Vehicle Accelerator (NEVA) was invited by the southern Nevada Traffic Incident Management (TIM) coalition to participate in training for first responders about how to handle electric cars and their high voltage battery packs after an automotive accident. The website for the Nevada TIM coalition is at:

http://www.nevadatim.com/

TIM Coalition first responder members listen to presentation by Stan Hanel, NEVA Outreach Coordinator, in conjunction with firefighters Charles Howell and Michael Brennan from Clark County Fire Department

TIM Coalition first responder members listen to presentation by Stan Hanel, NEVA Outreach Coordinator, in conjunction with firefighters Charles Howell and Michael Brennan from Clark County Fire Department

The roads and highways around Las Vegas are the arteries that pump the lifeblood of the southern Nevada economy to this region. The Nevada Highway Patrol, Metropolitan Police, Clark County Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, the Regional Transportation Commission, the Nevada Department of Transportation, highway construction firms, hazardous materials (hazmat) service companies, towing service companies and even the Clark County Coroner’s office must communicate everyday to ensure the safe passage of 35 million visitors to and from the Las Vegas Valley region each year. Each day there are also about two million full time residents in southern Nevada who use these roadways to commute to work. At the same time, tractor trailers and delivery trucks use interstate highways I-15 and I-95 for commercial shipping between California, the rest of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Any bottlenecks in traffic during the day or night can have significant economic effects on the region.

The national Traffic Incident Management (TIM) coalition is an initiative sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to encourage teamwork and coordination among first responders who react quickly when there is a traffic incident in the community. Public and private agencies must work together effectively to clear the scene of a traffic incident in order to bring back an orderly traffic flow as soon as possible. The TIM coalition chapter in southern Nevada was formed in 2008.

The Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation (FAST) was also formed by the southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission to provide video camera views of ongoing traffic from strategic locations by constantly monitoring traffic flows as they happen, second-by-second.

http://www.nvfast.org/trafficcameras.html

The video cameras are mounted at strategic intersections and highway locations shown on the link above. A full-time staff is employed by the RTC FAST traffic division for two labor shifts at seven days a week, to monitor these traffic flows and anticipate potential congestion problems. The traffic monitors are able to witness automotive accidents or traffic bottlenecks as they happen, then alert appropriate first responders as quickly as possible.

Ingrid Birenbaum, P.E. from Atkins Engineering coordinates meeting of Southern Nevada TIM Coalition

Ingrid Birenbaum, P.E. from Atkins Engineering coordinates meeting of Southern Nevada TIM Coalition

Atkins Engineering was the local administrator for the southern Nevada TIM coalition that holds bi-monthly meetings with representatives of the TIM community to talk about strategies for alleviating potential traffic bottlenecks as well as how to effectively react to potential traffic accidents after they occur. Meeting locations rotate to different membership agencies that host the event and arrange speakers about current topics. During the January meeting, the TIM coalition gathered at Double Barrel Environmental Services at 595 Corinthian Way in Las Vegas, to talk about how to handle new electric cars, hybrids, and advanced lithium-ion battery pack technologies when they are involved in an automotive accident.

Double Barrel Environmental Services Hazmat Truck Gear

Double Barrel Environmental Services Hazmat Truck Gear

Gasoline is a volatile and combustible fuel that can ignite during an automotive accident if a spark or flame is generated. Although safer automobile designs have diminished automotive fires during the last decade, there are still about 200,000 automobile fires each year that cause an average of 500 deaths.

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Although electric vehicles comprise only about one percent of the automotive traffic on Nevada roads and highways at this time, more alternative fuel vehicles will be coming over the next few years as automotive manufacturers seek to comply with increasing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Richard Brenner, Clark County Fire Department Hazmat Coordinator, emphasized that automotive manufacturers will also be building more vehicles that use compressed natural gas (CNG) as well as trucks and tractor-trailers that will run on liquefied natural gas (LNG). Each of these technologies have potential hazardous effects to the public if their energy storage systems are damaged during a traffic accident. He emphasized the need to understand these new technologies and be prepared for them, as they pass through the southern Nevada transportation system.

Clark County Fire Department Hazmat Coordinator, Richard Brenner, leads training for TIM Coalition First Responders

Clark County Fire Department Hazmat Coordinator, Richard Brenner, leads training for TIM Coalition First Responders

The TIM Coalition meeting agenda was particularly timely as the daily news media were reporting about the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft flights at several airports because of two recent fires this month centered around lithium-ion battery cells manufactured by GS Yuasa Company in Japan. Some media reports were comparing the Dreamliner aircraft technology to the lithium-ion battery packs used in electric cars, even though the internal chemistries use different materials and were manufactured for different applications. Airline regulators in Japan are investigating the cause of the fires to determine whether it was the battery cells, the battery management system electronics, wiring harness, or charging system that was the source of the problem.

Electric vehicles that use hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery-powered drive trains are now using either nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion battery storage pack chemistries to diminish the amount of gasoline consumed by each vehicle on the road.

Findlay Automotive and NV Energy supplied two Chevy Volts and a Toyota Prius Hybrid for first responder training

Findlay Automotive and NV Energy supplied two Chevy Volts and a Toyota Prius Hybrid for first responder training

A high-voltage traction battery pack in today’s electric cars can be rated anywhere from 2 to 85 kilowatt-hours of energy capacity, enough electric power to supply the needs of a house for several days. Although the chance of an electrical fire is much rarer in an electric vehicle battery storage pack than a more combustible gasoline storage tank, there is an additional potential for electric shock and chemical electrolyte irritation after a vehicle accident. Most commercial electric-drive vehicles on the road today have passed extensive crash testing by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and have scored higher than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, usually with five-star safety ratings.

Firefighters Charles Howell and Michael Brennan instruct TIM Coalition about 12-volt auxiliary battery disconnect procedure for Chevy Volt.

Firefighters Charles Howell and Michael Brennan instruct TIM Coalition about 12-volt auxiliary battery disconnect procedure for Chevy Volt.

Two firefighters from the Clark County Fire Department, Charles Howell and Michael Brennan, conducted a first response demonstration of how they would approach an electric-drive vehicle during an traffic accident. They emphasized that an accident scene is dynamic and constantly changing, requiring them to think on their feet and improvise solutions to problems as they proceed.

NEVA has also partnered with Adam Weiss, an engineer and firefighter medic from Clark County Fire Department, to help train volunteer fire departments in the rural areas of Nevada.

Weiss has developed an electric car “app” for first responders called “Extraction Zones” that can be downloaded to an Apple or Android mobile phone:

http://www.extractionzones.com/

The app is especially valuable to first responders who must extract an accident victim from an electrified vehicle. Simple colored diagrams specify cut zones, electrical system locations and other graphic information for many of the most common plug-in electric vehicles now on the market.

On January 24th, NEVA and Findlay Chevrolet again teamed up with Clark County Fire Department firehouse #18 to record a video presentation about first response techniques for the Chevy Volt. About a dozen firefighters, as well as a CCFD camera crew, attended the event to create a video that could be used for training at other facilities. The Findlay Chevrolet dealership also allowed the first responders to keep the Volt for several days to drive it and become more familiar with its components and interior controls.

During June 2014, the NFPA held its annual Conference & Expo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Organizers donated the training video, used in the Electric Vehicle Safety Showcase during the national conference, to the NEVA program and it will be added to this NEVA first responder web page in the near future.

The quality of the new training video is excellent, tying together concise graphics and dramatic demonstrations in an engaging and educational presentation that expands the knowledge base of resources for first responders.

It provides simple steps for first responders to follow when encountering an unknown hybrid or plug-in electric car:

1. Identify the type of propulsion system by assuming that the vehicle may still be under power and enabled, even if there is no noise coming from the engine or drive train.

2. Immobilize the vehicle by turning off power, walking any proximity keys away from the vehicle beyond 15 feet, and blocking the wheels to prevent sudden movement.

3. Disable the vehicle for towing, by disconnecting the high-voltage traction battery pack from the drive train and disabling the 12-volt auxiliary battery to prevent air bags from falsely triggering. The high-voltage battery pack usually has a service disconnect plug that can be pulled out of a socket to open up the high-voltage circuit and isolate the battery cells from the electronics system.

The automotive industry has adopted a standard convention that designates high voltage cables running to the electric motor on a hybrid or electric car with orange-colored insulation surrounding the wire cable. First responders should avoid cutting through these orange-colored cables during an extraction event, even after they have disconnected the high voltage battery pack. The electric motor speed controller has electronic capacitors that may retain some high voltage temporarily, until the capacitors have time to discharge.

Air bag systems also use capacitors with locally stored electricity to enable the quick deployment of air bags. First responders should avoid cutting into the air bag system wiring harness during an extraction event to avoid triggering any undeployed air bags, even after they have disabled the 12-volt auxiliary battery from the circuit.

Once the high voltage battery pack has been disconnected from the automotive drive train, the battery pack should still be monitored for heat or outgassing noises, to make sure that internal cells are not going into a thermal runaway condition. A thermal imaging camera can monitor the ongoing heat profile of the battery pack, giving real time measurements through multi-colored display references. If a battery pack looks like it is starting to heat up, copious amounts of water should be poured on the battery pack container area to attempt to dissipate the heat and keep the temperature of the cells at their normal operating temperature. Keeping the overall battery pack temperature stabilized allows individual cells to burn themselves out without igniting other nearby cells into thermal runaway conditions.

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Here were some of the general guidelines proposed for first responders by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

1. Because an electric motor drive train is inherently quiet, while also generating a lot of torque to the wheels of a car, first responders need to approach an electric-drive vehicle with caution, while being prepared for unexpected surges of the drive wheels. Blocking the drive wheels off the ground so that they can spin without moving the vehicle is an important early step that also prepares the vehicle for towing. If available, wear insulated gloves and boots when approaching an electric-drive vehicle.

Chevy Volt Steering Wheel Display

2. Another important early step by first responders is to always assume that the electric car might still be under power. Approach the vehicle dashboard to look inside for a green “ready” icon (usually in the shape of car) that will show if the vehicle power is still active. Make sure the vehicle is in “Park” mode, press the “on/off” button until the green “ready” icon goes off, the vehicle display goes through shut down mode, and the vehicle powers down.

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3. If there is a proximity key fob visible inside the vehicle, remove it and walk it away from the vehicle at least twenty feet to deactivate the proximity enable switch and remote lock controls.

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4. The next step is to disconnect the high-voltage traction battery pack and the 12-volt auxiliary battery pack from the rest of the electronic circuitry in the car. Each type and model of vehicle has different methods to do this. Fire trucks carry an EV reference guide and firefighters have pocket information manuals that outline these differences, as developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These resources and instructions can also be found online in PDF file format, through a smart phone, tablet or laptop browser at:

http://www.evsafetytraining.org

Generally, there are several guidelines:

a. In hybrid vehicles with smaller traction battery packs (2 to 4 kilowatt-hours), disconnection of both the traction and auxiliary battery packs is usually done from the central fuse box. When in doubt about which fuse corresponds to each battery pack, it is recommended to just pull out all of the fuses and tape off the fuse box with electrical tape to avoid potential short circuits.

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b. Plug-in hybrid or battery-powered electric vehicles employ much larger traction battery packs (16 to 85 kilowatt-hours) as well as a much larger disconnect plug in order to disconnect the traction battery high-voltage pack from the rest of the electronic circuitry and motor in the electric drive train. Although all worldwide manufacturers are required to install these safety disconnect plugs in their automobiles, usually near the center console by the driver, the type of plug and its access location are not yet standardized throughout the automotive industry. There are tradeoffs between designs for the security of quick disconnect systems vs. ease of access during emergency situations.

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For example, the Chevrolet Volt disconnect plug is located under the right arm rest that also serves as an accessory tray. The disconnect plug is found by lifting the arm rest and then lifting out the accessory tray to expose the orange plug. Releasing the hold-down latch and then pulling up the plug allows the first responder to break the electric drive train circuit.

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By contrast, the Nissan LEAF also has a disconnect plug near the center console by the driver, but the first responder will need to lift up a section of carpet, have a 10mm box wrench available to remove three bolts, then lift out a triangular metal cover before being able to reach in and pull out the disconnect plug for the electric drive train.

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5. These industry safety components and design practices should become more standardized over time, as well as the practice of using universal picture icons of a fire helmet, cutting pliers and other pictures to represent where to cut and disconnect components. First responders also need to know what parts of the vehicle wiring to avoid cutting. On the Chevrolet Volt, the orange high-voltage wires should not be cut, yet the black cable at the rear of the Volt in a special access panel should be cut in order to disconnect the 12-volt auxiliary battery. The area of the cable to be cut is labeled with yellow tape and some universal icons that fire fighters and first responders will recognize. When cutting a cable, the first responder should make two cuts and remove at least one-half inch of the conductive cable from the car in order to avoid the cut cable ends accidentally re-connecting while a car is being moved or towed.

6. When extracting a passenger or driver from a crumpled vehicle, the first responders may need to cut into the metal frame of the vehicle to make an exit hole. Firemen are now trained to cut at door hinges and to avoid cable routing areas. This procedure limits the potential for electrical short circuits, even after the batteries have been disconnected.

Double Barrel Environmental Services Hazmat truck and extinguisher gear

Double Barrel Environmental Services Hazmat truck and extinguisher gear

7. If a battery pack does catch fire, a normal ABC-type extinguisher will not extinguish a chemical fire of this nature. Copious amounts of water can help cool the battery pack and control a fire so that the internal cells burn themselves out. Special extinguishing agents like LITH-X (powdered graphite) or copper powder can be used, if available. If not, sand, dry ground dolomite, soda ash or dirt can be used to smother an electrical fire.

Firefighters should wear self-contained breathing apparatus for larger fires. Larger burning lithium-ion batteries can produce toxic fumes of hydrogen fluoride, as well as oxides of carbon, aluminum, lithium, copper and cobalt.

8. If a plug-in electric vehicle is connected to electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) that is recharging the battery pack at the time the vehicle catches fire, try to first unplug the SAE J1772 connector from the vehicle charging port. If the J1772 plug is not accessible due to fire or other blockage, cut off power to the EVSE at the building’s circuit breaker panel.

Automotive manufacturers have been continuing to offer online support to new car buyers that can help alert first responders and even activate vehicle electronics remotely to save lives. These remote vehicle monitoring services like GM OnStar, Ford Sync, and Nissan CarWings have been included in the price of electric-drive automobiles, so that the automotive manufacturer can accrue data about the progress of these new technologies over time, as well as protect their customers.

Automobile accidents WILL continue to happen, no matter what kind of man-made technology is available, even self-driving cars with multiple sensors and automatic safety response systems. Technology can diminish the potential for severe automotive accidents but things will still go wrong, components will still fail, and lives will be lost.

“Murphy’s Law” and its variations have been noted throughout history since the beginning of the industrial revolution – “whatever can go wrong will eventually go wrong” due to operator error, faulty installation, or component defect.

First responders who understand today’s emerging automotive technologies, and have been trained to adjust to their potential weaknesses, can more effectively protect themselves and the public from emergency traffic situations when they inevitably happen.

Northern Nevada TIM Coalition Training (3/19/2013)

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On March 19, NEVA, NV Energy, NDOT and Atkins North America teamed up to provide first responder training for the northern Nevada region at the Reno NHP office. Travis Johnson, EV and Emerging Technologies Manager at NV Energy, provided training to first responders on the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF and Tesla Motors Model S.

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