Know the threats before you attack an electric vehicle fire

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fire engine responds to a car fire

There are over 1 million electric and plug-in cars on U.S. roads. The batteries used in these cars have special safety concerns for first responders if there is a car fire.

These cars can experience multiple classes of fires:

Electric vehicle fires can exceed 5,000 F. Applying water or foam may cause a violent flare-up as the water molecules separate into explosive hydrogen and oxygen gases.

There are several common risks for first responders associated with electric vehicle fires:

Reduce the risk

Many companies are meeting first responders' need with exotic chemical agents that encapsulate the burning material. But what do those responders who don’t have immediate access to 3,000 gallons of water or expensive chemical agents do in the meantime?

The following guidelines will help you to mitigate the risk when you encounter an electric vehicle fire:

Pre-attack

Attack

Post-attack

Training to assist you

Several organizations have developed training and response guides to assist first responders. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) produced an emergency field guide, NFPAs Alternative Fuel Vehicles Safety Training and the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium offers a full catalog of training opportunities. Electric vehicle manufacturers have also added emergency responder information to their websites and vehicle documentation.

New hot stick technology on the way

The U.S. Fire Administration partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratories to develop a hot stick that can detect the presence of hazardous Direct Current (DC) voltages. The patent on this prototype has been licensed and product testing is underway. We anticipate a new product will be announced to the market soon.

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