COLUMBIA — Hybrid and electric car owners enjoy high mileage rates and reduced carbon emissions, but the firefighters have to assess what type of vehicle they are dealing with at accident scenes.*
Fifty-seven representatives of nearly 50 local fire departments and first-response units met Saturday in the MU Student Center to attend an Electric Vehicle Safety Training project presented by the National Fire Protection Association and the MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute.
The course was designed to give representatives training and safety information that they could use to teach local staff about how to correctly respond to traffic accidents involving electric and hybrid cars.
In conjunction with the courses, which are scheduled to be conducted in all 50 states within the next year, the MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute is developing electric and hybrid vehicle training materials for national distribution. These materials, called Electric Field Guides, are being compiled with the help of the MU College of Engineering Electric Car Club.
The guides were designed to be used by first responders at the scene of accidents. They will contain easy-to-reference information on how to identify an electric or hybrid vehicle, as well as technical information on how to properly disable the high voltage circuit, which could pose a danger to first responders and accident victims.
Assistant Director Kevin Zumwalt of the Fire and Rescue Training Institute said the goal is to produce the field guides in three formats: print, which will be published nationally; electronic, which can be accessed by mobile data terminals on fire engines; and as downloadable PDF files online.
The courses being conducted nationally were funded by a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
As hybrid and electric cars become more commonplace, the information offered Saturday will “become a normal course of training” for fire and rescue crews, Electric Vehicle Safety Instructor, Jason Emery, said.
Saturday's training included three essential safety steps for first responders: identifying an electric or hybrid vehicle involved in an accident, immobilizing the vehicle and disabling the high voltage circuit connected to the car’s power supply.
A Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius were on the site Saturday to demonstrate some of the specific design issues Missouri first responders would be encountering between different makes and models of electric cars. These differences will also be detailed in the Electric Field Guides produced by the institute.
While Emery said most of the feedback from training courses has been positive, there were a few discontented voices from firefighters at Saturday’s seminar when they were told they would not be allowed to crash the model vehicles for some real hands-on training.