According to Chapter Six of the Transportation Energy Data Book, Table 6.1 states that, “There are almost 1.2 million alternative fuel vehicles in the United States, not including flex-fuel E85 vehicles which operate mainly on gasoline. The E85 vehicles in this table are those believed to be regularly fueled with E85 and represent only fleet vehicles covered under the Energy Policy Act.”
Table 6.5, of the same resource provides the information on electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, which have only been available for purchase since 2010, “The hybrid share of all light vehicles reached 3.2% of all light vehicle sales in 2013. Plug-in vehicles certified for highway use began selling in 2010 and were 0.6% of the light vehicle market in 2013.”
The push for higher fuel economy and air quality standards have created several classes of consumer vehicles that pose hazards for responders. There are financial incentives for consumers to purchase these fuel efficient vehicles, and in a few short years, the vehicles, their fueling stations, and their accidents have become much more commonplace on U.S. roads. These vehicles, and their fuels create extrication challenges, fire hazards, submersion dangers, and other issues for the safety of responders on scene.
There are several free training resources online for first responders. The National Fire Protection Association has several training courses and reports, to prepare agency personnel to respond to incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles.
NFPA’s online curriculum covers:
• Introduction to alternative fuel vehicle concepts including, electric, hybrid, fuel cell, bio-diesel and gaseous fuels such as CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and Propane.
• The program also covers identification techniques, immobilization and power-down procedures, extrication challenges, recommended practices for dealing with hazards such as fires and submersion, incidents involving charging/refueling stations, and more.
Who Will Benefit: Anyone who may respond to incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles, including: fire service and law enforcement, emergency medical service technicians, and tow and salvage personnel. (This training is not available for International Responders at this time.)
An additional resource is provided by the NFPA with information on makes and models of vehicles that have alternative fuels. The “NFPA is collecting safety information from hybrid and electric vehicle manufacturers.” Please visit them here. Please read the disclaimer statement: the NFPA is providing the material it is collecting, but is not writing or responsible for manufacturer content. Please check with the NFPA for more information.
The NPFA also offers a handbook prepared by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, published in May 2010, specifically addressing safety for responses to Electric Vehicles and Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Fire Fighter Safety and Emergency response for Electric Drive and Hybrid Electric Vehicles, provides tactics and procedures for addressing incidents involving these vehicles. This report is a .pdf, and can be downloaded from the website.
“The goal of this report is to assemble and disseminate best practice information for fire fighters and fire ground incident commanders to assist in their decision making process for handling electric and hybrid electric vehicles. Specifically, this study focuses on vehicles intended for roadway passenger use involving fire and/or rescue emergency situations, either on the roadway or at charging/docking stations (e.g., garages).”
A free online training course specifically for electric cars can be found here
State Programs are Available Free Online
The California Office of the State Fire Marshall, California department of Forestry and Fire Protection, offers a free course for responding to alternative fuel vehicles, the "Emergency Response to Alternative Fuel Vehicles":
“This program is designed to prepare emergency medical, law enforcement, and fire service personnel for an emergency response involving a wide range of alternative fuel vehicles. Funding for this program was provided by the California Air Resources Board, Alternative Fuel Incentive Program. This program explores and provides an overview of the "basic" operation of alternative fuel vehicles, their component parts, infrastructure, and importantly, how this technology affects the standard operating procedures for emergency response personnel.”
Access the course by visiting their site here. Several videos are also available in the “Media” section of the webpage.
For more information about this program please contact Rodney Slaughter at Rodney.Slaughter@fire.ca.gov.
North Carolina Department of Insurance of the Office of the State Fire Marshall, in partnership with North Carolina State University provides Triangle Alternative Fuels First Responder Online Training as part of its “Pocket Tools training” resource.
“The instructors who prepared the materials for this workshop were trained by the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) at West Virginia University, through their "Train the Trainer" program. Some content from the NAFTC program is included in the presentations and used with approval from the NAFTC.”
Finally, the United States Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center website contains information on all of the alternative fuels in use today, information on fueling station types and locations and a database of vehicles that utilize alternative fuels.
Each of the above training programs is freely available, however the NFPA courses are available in the United States only, as of this article.
Take a few minutes to visit the maps and see where in your state where alternative fuels are available and where fueling stations are located. Schedule your agency personnel to attend training, free online, and include your dispatch personnel and others who interact with the drivers of these cars. Write SOPs or SOGs for your departments, discuss and determine best practices for your area, and subscribe free for responder updates and resources from the DoE. Alternative fuel vehicles are becoming more commonplace on the nation’s roads, make sure you know how to deal with them.