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Monday, March 28, 2011

Electric Vehicle / Hybrid Vehicle Safety Training For Emergency Responders

There’s are new types of cars out on the road that firefighters and emergency first responders need to be more aware of when it comes to mitigating the associated hazards involved at the motor vehicle accident (MVA) or incident. It use to be that on a MVA once the fire was out, vehicle stabilized for scene safety, and treatment of victims with injuries someone would disconnect the vehicle battery. Now, disconnecting a car’s battery at an accident scene could cause a very big “OUCH” if it’s done the wrong way.

Last summer, the the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) received a grant to develop a safety training program to help emergency first responders prepare for the growing number of electric vehicles on the road in the United States. The Obama Administration has established a goal of one million electric vehicles in the U.S. by 2015. The NFPA initiative, funded by a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, will include a series of electric vehicle emergency response safety programs available to emergency first responders. The training programs will provide emergency first responders with information they need to most effectively deal with emergency situations involving these alternative-fuel vehicles.

"Alternative-fuel vehicles bring new challenges for emergency first responders,” said Andrew Klock, NFPA’s senior project manager for this initiative. "We are building on NFPA’s long history as a leader in fire safety to provide critical information about the unique characteristics of these vehicles. Our goal is to make sure that first responders have all the information they need to deal with emergency situations involving these vehicles."

The training program will include NFPA-developed classroom training courses, handbooks, simulations, webinars, videos and other computer-based training tools.

“We want to make this training accessible for any emergency first responder,” says Klock.

Firefighters and emergency first responders need to know how to disable the high- and low-voltage systems on these new electric cars which have extra risks posed by their high-voltage batteries and cables. Safety tips on how rescuers should approach a “fully-hybrid” vehicle needs to be gone over, as well as learning where batteries are, where cables are, and where air bags are located at. The proper & SAFE way to disable and cut cables needs to be learns too. In most cases these new electric cars will have symbols and stickers in the vehicle, with a little red symbol of a fire hat letting firefighters and emergency first responders know where to disable it.

“Every auto accident has a different scenario and factors involved. It is crucial for all emergency responders to be equipped with firsthand knowledge of each vehicle on the road,” indicates Ken Willette, manager of NFPA’s Public Fire Protection Division. “Being prepared for every possible circumstance keeps everyone safer.”


Ø Quickest and easiest way for emergency responders: All hybrid vehicles have badge plates located on the sides and/or rear of the vehicle



1) Turn off ignition switch and remove key (if so equipped). This turns off the engine and the motor, which prevents electric current from flowing into the cables from the motor or high-voltage battery, and, turns off power to the airbags and the seatbelt pre-tensioner.

2) After turning off the ignition switch, it is recommended that emergency responders remove the key (if so equipped) so the car cannot be inadvertently restarted. To let everyone at the crash scene know the key is removed, give the key to the I/C, who will make a general announcement regarding the key. At this point, the high-voltage system has been isolated. This improves responder safety in and around the vehicle.

3) The next step is to shut down the 12V electrical system on the hybrid just as we typically do on any conventional vehicle involve din an MVA.

4) Locate the 12V battery. It may or may not be under the hood. In the Toyota Prius it is located inside the driver’s rear wheel well within the trunk. Either disconnect or double cut first the negative and then the positive cable. This disables the high-voltage battery controller, which prevents electric current from flowing into the orange cables and the high-voltage battery.

5) With the ignition key turned off and removed and the 12V battery disabled, the hybrid vehicle is safe to work on for vehicle rescue. High-voltage electricity still exists, but it is isolated to the battery pack, generally in the trunk of cars or under the rear passenger seat in pick-ups.

6) An alternative to disabling the 12V battery is to remove the HEV fuse, generally located in the engine compartment junction box. When in doubt pull all fuses in this box.

7) Stabilize the vehicle. Crib at four points directly under the front and rear pillars. Do not place cribbing under high-voltage power cables, exhaust system or fuel system.

8) At this point conventional rescue techniques may be used, including cutting of door hinges, modified dash roll, steering wheel displacement, etc. However caution must be used at all times to avoid cutting any high or intermediate-voltage lines.

9) Should a hybrid be involved in a rollover, end up on its roof, this may prevent access to the engine compartment and disabling of the 12V battery may not be possible. This poses a serious threat. If access to the 12V battery is not hindered, extrication can be handled as in any conventional vehicle rollover.

10) The removal of the roof of hybrids such as the Toyota Prius may be easily accomplished by opening the hatch to gain access for cutting of the pillars. The hatch will need to be opened manually with pry tools because 12V power is needed to open the hatch.

11) Hybrid identification tags are located in the rear and/or sides of the vehicle. Severe impacts in these areas could destroy or hide the identification tags. You must be sure to look for other hybrid identifications, make sure you are aware of the models on the road, and when in doubt assume the vehicle is a hybrid until proven otherwise.


1) A fire involving a hybrid vehicle can be handled by following normal vehicle firefighting procedures. In a typical vehicle fire incident, the engine compartment, interior of vehicle or trunk area are burning. By following generally accepted fire suppression guidelines, crews attack the fire with an adequate water flow rate, working from a safe position of approach.

2) SCBA is worn throughout the incident.

3) The initial fire attack should be a fast and aggressive attack.

4) Fire crews may not be able to identify a hybrid until the fire has been knocked down and overhaul operations have commenced.

5) The wheels should be chocked as soon as safely possible.

6) During overhaul, the same steps defined in the extrication module should be used to disable the high-voltage system. (shut down power, disable 12V system)

7) Fire suppression crews will not be shocked or electrocuted during attack on a hybrid vehicle fire, even if flames are impinging on the battery pack itself.

8) There are potential, unique problems involving fire situations with hybrid vehicles. Any fire where there is direct flame impingement on the high-voltage battery pack would be an example. A fire that has originated within the battery pack itself or an electrical fire that begins somewhere within the high-voltage electrical system would also require special precautions.

9) Radiant heat could cause the modules inside the high-voltage battery to melt just as any plastic material would exposed to high temperatures. If heated sufficiently, it is possible the plastic casings could melt down, exposing the inner components of the high-voltage battery.

10) Copious amounts of water should be used quickly to eliminate radiant heat to the battery box and begin cooling the plastic battery cell modules in the high-voltage battery pack itself.

11) Should a fire in the Ni-MH HV battery pack occur, the I/C will have to decide whether to pursue an offensive or defensive.

12) If a melted nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery is encountered, the I/C may want the nearest dealer of the vehicle notified to send a designated battery recovery specialist to the scene to deal with the damaged battery.

13) In the Ni-MH Product Safety Data Sheet, responders are advised that virtually all fires involving Ni-MH batteries can be controlled with water. The information sheet also recommends “In case of fire where nickel metal batteries are present, apply a smothering agent such as METL-X, sand, dry ground dolomite, soda ash, or flood the area with water. A smothering agent will extinguish burning nickel metal hydride batteries.”

14) Class D extinguishers are the recommended extinguisher to use with Ni-MH batteries. But…….

15) Not all Class D extinguishers are equal. Some contain particles of metal such as copper. Copper, for example, is one metal that may actually cause an adverse reaction with the high-voltage battery and generate hydrogen gas. In a small space, such as a trunk, this could cause an explosion.

16) Large amounts of water will not be able to directly attack a fire burning inside the battery pack unit itself. The metal cover of the pack prevents a direct attack on the internal cells of the battery. The water application, however, will cool the adjacent battery cells. Burning Ni-MH batteries will burn themselves out. Applying sufficient amounts of water will cool the metal housing of the battery pack and control the fire until the battery modules that are actually on fire burn themselves out. DO NOT EVER REMOVE THE COVER OF THE HIGH-VOLTAGE BATTERY PACK!

17) When water is used to extinguish Ni-MH battery fires, some hydrogen gas may evolve. In this situation ventilation will be needed to prevent a build up of the gas. Leaving the trunk, hatchback or battery compartment cover open is advised to ensure ventilation of the gas. If there is a concern that hydrogen gas is present, and ventilation is not possible, fire smothering agents are recommended.

18) A battery fire WILL produce toxic fumes, including oxides of nickel cobalt, aluminum, manganese, lanthanum, cerium, neodymium and praseodymium. Because of this, SCBA must be worn throughout the fire attack and during overhaul.

19) In addition, keep the “hot zone” clear of unnecessary personnel. Keep all “hot zone” personnel fully protected with structural clothing that addresses Level 3 hazmat personal protective clothing criteria and SCBA.


1. Chock wheels

2. Remove/Find Key

3. Give key to I/C

4. I/C makes general announcement regarding key

5. Locate power button/Shut off power

6. Engage emergency brake

7. Cut negative 12V cable

8. Cut positive 12V cable

9. Do not touch or cut any orange or blue loom!

10. Wait 5 minutes before making any cuts for extrication!

For more information and resources about NFPA’s Electrical Vehicle Safety Training Program for U.S. emergency responders visit

About NFPA’s Electric Vehicle Safety Training Project
NFPA’s Electric Vehicle Safety Training project is a nationwide program to help firefighters and other first responders prepare for the growing number of electric vehicles on the road in the United States. The NFPA project, funded by a $4.4 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, provides first responders with information they need to most effectively deal with potential emergency situations involving electric vehicles. Visit the Electric Vehicle Safety Training project website.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Sparky!


Sparky the Fire Dog ® celebrates his 60th birthday

Famous spokesdog reminds families about the importance of fire prevention

Sparky the Fire Dog turned 60-years-old. He's also the official mascot of the National Fire Protection Association.

Last week, there was a very special birthday party. Sparky the Fire Dog ®’s 60th birthday, was officially March 18, 2011. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) launched a colorful and interactive Party Kit on, where parents can help their kids print, cut and glue their way to fun – all while learning about fire safety.

The Party Kit has everything families need to throw a Sparky-themed party, including downloadable templates for coloring pages, decorations, invitations, iron-on t-shirt transfers and even floor graphics – not to mention instructions for party games like “Bucket Brigade” and “Pin the Badge on Sparky.” NFPA also designed a special anniversary e-card just for Sparky’s birthday that children can send their friends and family.

“It is so important for parents to take part in educating their families about fire safety, and we want to give them the tools and ideas to get these crucial messages across in a way their children will identify with and remember,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communication of NFPA. “What better than a birthday party for a loveable mascot, filled with crafts and activities that all tie back to a fire safety theme? So many children love when Sparky the Fire Dog visits schools and community events with their local firefighters and public educators, and now parents can carry on the educational celebration at home.”

NFPA also worked with well-known designer and illustrator Scott Nash, who is recognized nationally for his work in children’s media, to create a new “Sparky Museum” game where children can learn how Sparky has changed over the past six decades. Each time they move their mouse over a “portrait,” a fun fact pops up providing a bit of history. Of course, no children’s game would be the same without a few twists and turns. At surprise points during the game, an alarm sounds to let kids know that a thief is in the museum, prompting the player to find the culprit.

“ has been such as great tool for our public education efforts,” said Judy Comoletti, division manager of public education for NFPA. “Not only is it fun for kids, it’s a trusted resource for parents, too.”

Sparky was created in 1951 for an Advertising Council campaign. The number of fires and fire injuries in the United States has since then declined due in part to enhanced public education efforts. However, approximately 3,000 people die each year because of fires and thousands are injured, so Sparky’s work continues and is more important than ever.

According to NFPA research, children under five are one and a half times more likely to die in a home fire than the general public. “Sparky plays an important role in communicating fire safety to kids and families. Most fires can be prevented when people take personal responsibility and follow a few safety guidelines, and Sparky helps to deliver those messages in a fun and entertaining way,” said Carli.

About Sparky the Fire Dog®

Sparky the Fire Dog was created for the National Fire Protection Association in 1951 and has been the organization’s official mascot and spokesdog ever since. He is a widely recognized fire safety icon that is beloved by children and adults alike. Millions have learned about fire safety through educational lessons and materials featuring his image and he is more active than ever today. Sparky frequently visits schools and participates in community events to spread fire safety messages, often accompanied by his firefighter friends. In addition to connecting with the public through public service announcements and his featured role in Fire Prevention Week campaigns each October, he has a very active website, and a Facebook page that was launched in 2011 as part of his 60th anniversary celebration. Sparky the Fire Dog® is a registered trademark of NFPA.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Smoke Alarms… What You Need To Know

A reminder to check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when turning back the clocks this Saturday in observance of Daylight Saving Time.


In the event of a fire, properly install and maintained smoke alarms will provide an early warning alarm to your household. This alarm could save your own life and knows both your loved ones by providing the chance to escape.

***Your Smoke Alarm Quiz***

The Smoke Alarms In My Home:

Are installed on every level especially near sleeping areas?

Are tested once a month?

Have their batteries replaced with new ones at least once a year? We recommend that you change your batteries when you set your clocks in the Spring and again in the Fall.

Are vacuum over and kept free of dust?

Have their batteries replaced and are retested, should they start making a “chirping noise?”

Are replaced with new smoke alarms smoke alarms every 10 years?


If so, keep reading to learn answers to most common questions about life-saving smoke alarms.


In the event of a fire, a smoke alarm can save your life and those of your loved ones. They are the single most important means of preventing house and apartment fire fatalities by providing an early warning signal -- so you and your family can escape. Smoke alarms are one of the best features you can buy and install to protect yourself, your family, and your home.


Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas.

Also, smoke alarm should be installed at ceilings or above eye level on the walls. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, install your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.


Many hardware stores, home supply, or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms. If you are unsure where to buy one in your community, call your local fire department (on a non-emergency telephone number) and they will provide you with some suggestions.


Not a bit. In most cases all you need is a screwdriver. Many brands are self-adhesive and will automatically stick to the wall or ceiling where their placed. However, be sure to follow the directions from manufacture because each brand is different. If you're uncomfortable standing on a ladder, ask a relative or friend to for help.


Smoke alarms are very easy to take care of. There are two steps to remember:

Simply replace the batteries twice a year. Tip: Change the batteries when you set your clocks in the Spring and in the Fall. Some smoke alarms on the market come with a ten-year battery. These alarms are designed to be replaced as a whole unit, thus avoiding the need for better replacement. If your smoke alarm starts making a “chirping” noise, replaced the batteries and retest it.

Keep them clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly.


Then it's doing its job, do not disable your smoke alarm if it alarm due to cooking or other non-fire causes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in the alarm after cooking. Instead clear the air by waving a towel near the alarm, leaving the batteries in place. The alarm may have to be moved to a new location.


About eight-to-ten years, after which they should be replaced. Like most electronic devices smoke alarms wear out. You may want to write to purchase date on with a marker on the inside of you unit. That way, you'll know when to replace it. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement.


Some smoke alarms are considered to be “hard wired.” This means they are connected to the household electrical system and may or may not have battery back-ups. It's important to test every smoke alarm monthly. And always use new batteries when replacing old ones.

For More Information On this Subject and Other Related Subjects Go To The United States Fire Administration.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

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