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With gas prices on the continual rise (estimated to be at $4 a gallon by summer), coupled with the amount of money invested by car manufacturers in the R&D of Hybrid and Alternative fuel vehicles, it is certain that these vehicles will start to become more mainstream in the near future.

The question now becomes - what is your department doing to address the issue? Do you have SOPs and training in place to educate your firefighters and provide a working knowledge of these vehicles? Are your personnel aware of the dangers they actually present and those they do not?

Let’s utilize this group to bring a better understanding of these vehicles to our fellow emergency responders and flush out any misunderstandings that exist. Please feel free to share any experiences you have had with hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles and what you learned from it. I will be posting information in the near future to assist responders in sorting through the information out there but in the meantime let’s start up a dialog about what everybody’s concerns are and address any questions that are floating around out there.

Stay Safe,

Jason

Views: 1188

Replies to This Discussion

Jason-
Glad you started this discussion about this timely issue. The Seattle Fire Department has put together an outstanding power point about the hazards associated with CNG vehicles. They experienced an incendiary CNG vehicle fire that caused a cylinder to bleve. It is available through their web page.
Regarding hybrids, are you aware of any firefighter hazards associated with car fires in those vehicles?
Stay safe,
Doug
Chief,

Thanks for joining in. I set this group up about a week and a half ago and haven't had a chance to run any updates as of yet. I am looking to get the word out about it so we can start up this healthy exchange of factual information rather than some of the stuff that is floating around out there now.

I do have a copy of that CNG presentation that someone recently forwarded but I haven't had the opportunity to review it in its entirety yet. I didn’t realize they had made it available on their website but I think I will add a link to this forum once I locate it.

As far as hybrid vehicle fires water is the most suitable agent for extinguishment. Although the application of water to a high voltage electrical system is counter intuitive to firefighting personnel, there is no risk of the electricity traveling up the water stream and causing the electrocution of firefighting personnel. Although still dangerous, DC (direct current), unlike AC (alternating current) power sources commonly found in buildings, does not seek a path to ground. Rather, DC electricity follows a path out from the battery, along the electrical circuit and back to the battery. As such, the electrical current will not travel up the hose stream as it possible with a high voltage AC power source. The danger of electrocution exists when firefighters accidentally place themselves into the electrical circuit by touching both the negative and positive side of the circuit simultaneously with either their body or equipment. The various safety systems on these vehicles, however, keeps the potential of this occurring to a minimum. Responders should consider that it may be difficult to identify the vehicle as a hybrid depending on the extent of the damage of the vehicle from the fire.

It is generally recommended that a standard offensive attack be conducted unless the NiMH battery pack is on fire. If this becomes the case, live fire testing has indicated that it is better to allow the battery to burn out rather than attempt to extinguish it. The reason for this is two-fold; first it is nearly impossible to get enough water directly on to batteries because they are encased in protective shell. The only real access for water to the battery pack is via the battery vent and many vent designs do not allow easy access for this. Secondly, if you allow the battery pack to burn out, concerns regarding the hazmat properties of the residual electrolyte will be negated. Additionally, if the electrolyte is no longer present, the battery will not be energized. Always make sure that the battery pack is cooled down enough to prevent re-ignition prior to releasing the vehicle. Thermal imaging cameras can be a valuable tool to determine if the battery pack is cooled down in vehicles where the battery pack can be accessed visually.

Attempts should be made to control runoff as the NiMH battery has cancer causing ingredients. If a defensive attack is warranted, pull back to safe distance and use a water stream to protect exposures and control the path of smoke. If the situation does not allow for a defensive attack, such as a vehicle in a garage, appropriate actions should be taken to protect the exposure.

High voltage components should never be overhauled as there is no guarantee that the system is de-energized. System safeties can be rendered inoperable by the effects of fire. Live fire testing has indicated that these components can remain live after a vehicle has been subjected to fire.

Hope this clears up any questions you had regarding hybrid cars fires.

Stay Safe,

Jason
Jason-
That is good information to put out and it reinforces the information I have on Hybrids as well.
Thanks for the input.
Doug
if a hybrid is burning and exposures are a concern what about AFFF/ar foam??We are a small rural department and we carry a small amount of foam mostly for vehicle fires. should we reconsider the use of foam on hybrid? also with flex fuel vehicles becoming more prevalent, should we consider carrying more foam?
Hi Mike,

Good questions. When teaching I often get asked about the use of foam on a hybrid vehicle. The only reason I could see advocating the use of foam on this type of vehicle is if it were department policy to use it in the same situation with a standard vehicle.

Hybrids become more difficult to extinguish primarily when their battery pack becomes involved. Since many of the designs (battery placements) do not allow for hose stream to be applied to the exterior of the battery case, the fire will continue to burn inside due to lack of adequate cooling. In a situation where the battery case was accessible, continued application of water to the exterior of the battery case would eventually cool it down enough to prevent the unburned cells from reaching their ignition temperature.

Since foam is more of a smothering than a cooling agent, it wouldn’t be more effective than water in cooling the batteries, even if you were dealing with a model where you could reach the battery case with the foam stream. This is due to the fact that you would not be putting the foam directly on the substance that’s burning (battery cells) but using it to indirectly cool the cells.

In a situation involving exposures, I would advocate the use of an offensive attack to knock down the fire as quickly as possible. Once extinguishment has been achieved, if possible, remove the hybrid from the vicinity of the exposure and continue to monitor it to ensure that the battery pack is not burning. Also, consider requesting an additional company to provide supplemental water for the cooling process if you are unable to secure your own water supply.

The use of E85 in flex fuel vehicles does open up a new concern for firefighting personnel. The use of alcohol resistant foam is crucial to the operation due to the fact that since 85% of the mixture is alcohol and 15% is a hydrocarbon, it is going to act more like an alcohol. Since the typically available mixtures for AR-AFFF foam is 3%/6% or 1%/3% (hydrocarbon/alcohol) we will end up going through our foam supply much quicker if we have to run the mixture at the higher percentage.

For the amount of fuel most passenger vehicles carry, I would imagine that most departments that have foam would carry a sufficient amount of foam to handle a small spill. They would just need to make sure it was an alcohol resistant type. Larger spills such as those from a tanker would require a much greater supply and a network of mutual aid departments.

Thanks for the questions.

Stay Safe,

Jason
What I have instituted (with mixed results) is that we carry a small set of plastic wheel chocks on every fire company and ambulance. An an MVA before patient contact is established the front wheels are chocked. As soon as possible, preferable with the establshment of patient contact, the keys are removed from the ignitiona and at least 3 feet from the vehicle. Additionally, the parking brake is set. The goal is to prevent the car from moving if it starts up on its own. With such wide and varied versions of hybrids I am trying to take a generic approach. I tried positioning the wheel chocks in a location that would prompt thier use but it has been marginal with compliance.
Drew,

Sounds like you have taken a good proactive approach to the problem. As always the challenge is getting everyone to share the vision.

Stay Safe,

Jason
LAFD is slowly starting to use Hybrids for staffing vehicals
they are great

dont know about anyfire hazards tho...
Marc,

The fire hazards hybrids present really don't differ much from a standard vehicle. Likewise, extinguishing a hybrid vehicle fire is essentially the same as a standard vehicle. The major difference is if the battery pack becomes involved. Due to the difficulty in getting water directly to the battery cells it is better to let the battery pack burn itself out if the situation allows and there are no exposures at risk. The other concern being to avoid direct contact with any of the high voltage components.

Happy Holidays and Stay Safe,

Jason

Marc Hurwitz said:
LAFD is slowly starting to use Hybrids for staffing vehicals
they are great

dont know about anyfire hazards tho...
Jason,

I think that it might be helpful to your readers if you provided them with the manufacturer's resource links where they can download the hybrid manufacturer's Emergency Response Guides (ERGs) directly. Most of the questions that responders may have are answered in these guides.

At one time "Responder Fear" swept the globe because of passive safety features know as airbags. Again responder fear rose up again as "high voltage" hybrid vehicles emerged on the market. The latest responder fear is from roof mounted solar panels. What is the common factor for responder fear? Lack of proper education in the form of responder awareness; responders don’t get the information they need until after a product has been introduced.

It took the injury of (2) responders caught by a news team to draw attention worldwide to airbags. Since then airbag manufacturers and some car manufacturer's provide airbag safety information for responders. How did hybrid fear start? Simple, misinformation was spread worldwide by the Internet followed by media focusing on responder fear for sensationalism. Writing about how manufacturers are helping responders doesn’t sell papers, but one article saying responders are afraid to go to a crash draws everyone’s attention.

Toyota and Honda being the first to introduce hybrids were quick to head off responder fear with the publication of hybrid vehicle ERGs for their own make and models. Toyota conducted extrication and live burn tests to enable the ERG writers definitive answers regarding hybrid vehicle rescue (fire/spills/extrication). Two years ago Toyota Motor Sales, Inc, of U.S. developed a complete lesson plan to give responders needed information in a readymade slideshow format and given out at the FDIC attendees. While the LP was designed for Toyota/Lexus hybrids, it’s generic enough that training officers/instructors can add other make hybrid models in their presentation quite easily using specific manufacturer's ERGs.

For those doing extrication, there are no high voltage lines in any hybrid vehicle for the typical cut zones for roof removal or dashboard displacement. There are automatic and manual safety features built into the design of every hybrid vehicle. If the airbags deploy, the hybrid system should shut down automatically. Responders should turn the ignition to the “OFF” position; this shuts down the hybrid system, fuel pump and interrupts power to the SRS ECU. Don’t touch, cut or breach any high voltage component, even in the event of a fire. There is no way a responder in the field can identify if a high voltage component is still electrified.

Regards,
Ron Shaw
I am with Drew on a generic approach to a vehicle, whether it be a fire or MVA. With all the information that is available and the built-in safety features on Hybrid vehicles, our main concern is not the high voltage but, rather the vehicle having the ability to move on its own without warning.

Other than the Insight and Prius all hybrid vehicles look exactly like their conventional counterparts. Some of us that study these on a regular bases can pick-up on little details that identifies them but, most FF can not. They are taught to do a 360 walk around looking for identifying markings. These identifying markings may only be a small emblem on the rear of the vehicle and may be damaged or missing from the fire or crash. To be safe we must treat every vehicle as if it were a hybrid until identified different.

Most all instructor and the ERGs teach pretty much the same sequence of procedures for shutting down and disabling the vehicle. The first step in these procedures is to identify the vehicle, thus putting the FF walking around the vehicle in danger of being run over simply doing what he or she was taught to do.

I personally teach that the first step is to chock the wheels, thus making it safe to walk around.

Facing reality: old habits are hard to break. Though it is wrong, traditionally the EMT jumps off the truck, grabs his medical bag and runs to the patient before rescuers have time to stabilize the vehicle. I suggest we place two wheel chocks in the same box with the medical bag, not only making them convenient but, also reminding them of the need for them.
Ron,
Thanks for taking the time to submit a post for this group. Input from members is always encouraged, appreciated and will ultimately lead to a better understanding of new vehicle technologies. I have been meaning to get all the links posted here as well as some additional information but I have gotten side tracked with a few ongoing projects. Unfortunately I have had to take a more “answer questions as they come in approach”.
You are correct that the ERG’s contain valuable information. If anyone is interested in downloading them as a single batch, they have been compiled at www.etsrescue.com/hybrid_ERGs.zip . This download will allow you to receive the ERGs without having to go to each individual manufacturer’s website. I will be adding some more additional ones (some more obscure models) shortly.
Also, here are some links to articles which will also assist in understanding the concepts behind how hybrid vehicles function and what emergency responders need to be aware of in event that you respond to a hybrid vehicle incident.
http://firechief.com/rescue/firefighting_compound_factors/
http://www.fireengineering.com/display_article/309835/25/none/none/...
http://www.fireengineering.com/display_article/341997/25/ONART/none...
http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print.html?id=348467&bP...
As for your insight on “Responder Fear” I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately human nature is to fear that which we don’t understand. Education is paramount in keeping our response actions appropriate to the emergency at hand while simultaneously keeping personnel safe. During sweeps week in our area the year before last there was at least one TV station that felt the need to sensationalize the perceived dangers of hybrids. I myself own one and have no concerns that I am placing my immediate or extended (emergency services) family in danger. Despite the dramatic drop in fuel prices, green is here to stay. If anyone has any doubt, a trip to the Detroit auto show this year would certainly change their minds.
Toyota should be commended on their efforts to increase the safety of first responders by developing their PowerPoint presentation. Their program provides a good starting point but instructors should be aware that additional information about other hybrids on the road today is required to provide a “well rounded” approach to the training. The Toyota program addresses the Toyota/Lexus models on topics of identification, shutdown procedures, operating parameters etc. Users will need to add Ford/Mercury, Mazda, Saturn, Chevy/GMC/Cadillac, Nissan and Honda specific identification, secondary shutdown options, and operating parameters information. Of the roughly 19 hybrid models being sold today, only six of them are built by Toyota and Lexus. Having said that however, Toyota and Lexus do have more hybrid models on the road then all of the other manufacturers combined. This was due to a very proactive approach that Toyota/Lexus took towards the production and marketing of their hybrid line. In the coming years, however, other manufacturers will undoubtedly begin to catch up with them and it is important for emergency responders to be educated on all models.
Stay Safe,

Jason


Ron Shaw said:
Jason,

I think that it might be helpful to your readers if you provided them with the manufacturer's resource links where they can download the hybrid manufacturer's Emergency Response Guides (ERGs) directly. Most of the questions that responders may have are answered in these guides.

At one time "Responder Fear" swept the globe because of passive safety features know as airbags. Again responder fear rose up again as "high voltage" hybrid vehicles emerged on the market. The latest responder fear is from roof mounted solar panels. What is the common factor for responder fear? Lack of proper education in the form of responder awareness; responders don’t get the information they need until after a product has been introduced.

It took the injury of (2) responders caught by a news team to draw attention worldwide to airbags. Since then airbag manufacturers and some car manufacturer's provide airbag safety information for responders. How did hybrid fear start? Simple, misinformation was spread worldwide by the Internet followed by media focusing on responder fear for sensationalism. Writing about how manufacturers are helping responders doesn’t sell papers, but one article saying responders are afraid to go to a crash draws everyone’s attention.

Toyota and Honda being the first to introduce hybrids were quick to head off responder fear with the publication of hybrid vehicle ERGs for their own make and models. Toyota conducted extrication and live burn tests to enable the ERG writers definitive answers regarding hybrid vehicle rescue (fire/spills/extrication). Two years ago Toyota Motor Sales, Inc, of U.S. developed a complete lesson plan to give responders needed information in a readymade slideshow format and given out at the FDIC attendees. While the LP was designed for Toyota/Lexus hybrids, it’s generic enough that training officers/instructors can add other make hybrid models in their presentation quite easily using specific manufacturer's ERGs.

For those doing extrication, there are no high voltage lines in any hybrid vehicle for the typical cut zones for roof removal or dashboard displacement. There are automatic and manual safety features built into the design of every hybrid vehicle. If the airbags deploy, the hybrid system should shut down automatically. Responders should turn the ignition to the “OFF” position; this shuts down the hybrid system, fuel pump and interrupts power to the SRS ECU. Don’t touch, cut or breach any high voltage component, even in the event of a fire. There is no way a responder in the field can identify if a high voltage component is still electrified.

Regards,
Ron Shaw

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