First Responders Train For Fires, Crashes With Electric Vehicles

News 9 - September 12, 2022 12:03 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – 

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation estimates more than a quarter of the cars on Oklahoma roads will be electric by 2040. On Sunday, firefighters began hands-on training in Oklahoma City to learn how to respond to electric car (EV) emergencies.

During the drills at the OKC Fire Training Facility, firefighters from OKC, Canute, Midwest City and Elk City used the tools they’re trained to use, but in a different way.

“We’re going from the combustion cars to the electric vehicles,” said Bryan Albrecht, the president of the Oklahoma Wrecker Owners Association (OKWOA). “You don’t put them out the same way.”

Trainers with the Energy Security Agency showed firefighters the smart way to put out an electric car fire.

“They burn significantly hotter so they can throw a 2,000 degree flame out like a torch,” said Paul Davis, the fire training coordinator for the Oklahoma City Fire Department.

Trainers showed the first responders how to attack the fire by lifting and spraying water underneath the car where the batteries are typically located, not only to put out the fire but to cool the battery down and stop it from reigniting.

“The batteries can go into thermal runaway, heating up the next one, starting a chain reaction that can take up several hours to stop,” said Maj. Ted Lausser with the OKC Hazmat Team, who participated in the training.

Along with simulating a car fire, firefighters were put through a scenario of rescuing someone trapped inside an EV.

“Even though the car is not running, you don’t hear a motor run, the car is still alive, it’s still active,” said Albrecht.

“Where the energy goes from the battery into the motor, it turns it from a DC voltage to an AC voltage,” said Davis. “It can be as much as a commercial structure as what it releases.”

In an EV, electricity flows throughout the car, posing a risk to responders when they need to cut into the vehicle.

“If we cut the wrong spot, we hit a high voltage wire, we’re gonna electrocute everyone around,” said Albrecht.

“I feel a thousand times better,” said Maj. Lausser. “To actually do hands-on, be able to touch and pull a car apart to see not just on a piece of paper but what the vehicle is actually made up of, it’s game changing.”

The firefighters in Sunday’s training will go back to their departments to help train the rest of the company.

 

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