First Responders Race to Keep Up With Emerging Auto Technology


The recent Tesla Model S fire has turned out to have a positive impact on first responders.

First Responder Extinguishes Model S

First Responder Extinguishes Model S

Though most of the nation’s first responders have been at least slightly trained in how to deal with electric vehicles fires, the headline-grabbing Model S fire spawned new interest in getting first responders ready for a future EV blaze.

And ready they should be, as plug-in vehicle popularity continues to rise.

The problem is that traditional fire fighting methods don’t always apply to plug-in vehicles.

Water, though the listed method for dealing with lithium fires, is not as effective as some may think.  In fact, it took a reported 2.5 hours to extinguish the flaming Model S.

What this shows is that first responders aren’t fully aware of the challenges present in an electric vehicle fire.

Each plug-in vehicle carries with it a specific set of instructions for dealing with emergencies such as the Model S fire.

There are shutdown guidelines laid out, provided that the blaze is well controlled.  These procedures must be learned by emergency personnel.

The headline Model S fire has prompted several fire departments to catch up on today’s automotive technology.  The problem, according to fire personnel, is that automotive technology evolves so quickly that even they can’t keep pace.

As the Canton Rep points out:

“The Society of Automotive Engineers recommends all firefighters, police and rescue personnel become literate in EVs. This starts with being able to identify that the vehicle is electric. They propose placing standard warning markers on three sides of each EV and near the ignition.”

But, as Ron Moore, a trainer with the National Fire Prevention Association, states:

“It’s an impossible situation.  You’re talking a million responders and new cars coming out every six months.”

If it’s truly impossible, then what’s the solution?  Force all automakers/ battery manufacturer to standardized a shutdown procedure and to agree upon one method for extinguishing the flames?


Source: Canton Rep

Categories: Crashed EVs, General

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10 Comments on "First Responders Race to Keep Up With Emerging Auto Technology"

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As part of its Electric Vehicle Safety Training Project, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is working with Tesla Motors to help prepare the nation’s fire service and other first responders for the growing number of electric vehicles on the road.
Downloadable Materials from Tesla:
2012-2013 Model S ERG (PDF, 6,129 KB)
2012 and Newer Model S Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 1,291 KB)
Emergency Response Guide for the Roadster (PDF, 3.3 MB)
2008-2009 Roadster Quick Response Guide (PDF, 831KB)
2008 Roadster ERG Quick Reference Card (PDF, 1.2 MB)
2010-2013 Roadster Quick Response Guide (PDF, 832KB)
2010 and Newer Roadster ERG Quick Reference Card (PDF, 1.5 MB)


Along with training for first responders, NHTSA should investigate why the Model S is susceptible to battery fires when the Leaf and Volt and Fords have not had the same problem.

Prevention of fire in the first place would be a preferred And reasonable approach I would think.

A proper and thorough investigation of the Model S fires would lead to a better understanding of the cause which would then lead to preventative measures. Unfortunately Tesla’s approach of ‘all cars have fires’ is not a proactive approach. The lack of an official investigation of the Model S fires is short sided.

I believe the NHTSA did look at this – See And the NHTSA DID conclude there wasn’t a defect… – Can Telsa work harder and improve things even further – Sure. Do car fires happen with other cars – Sure. Do all other cars get investigated when a car fire occurs – No. So while prevention is definitely a “preferrable route” – A car, by nature, is a machine with lots of energy “in a botte”, be it a battery or a gas tank – That energy can escape when machines are compromised beyond their design limits – So fires ARE going to happen, and 1st responders need to know how to deal with that – As it has happened, and it will continue to happen, for ICE, PHEV, and EV cars – it basically physics.. Guess what, people will even die in Telsa cars (and Leafs, and Volts, etc.) – Not a pleasant thought, but I’m sure it will happen (if it hasn’t happened already) – But it happens in ALL cars, all the time – If you really want to improve safety by several orders of magnitude – take the driver out of the loop and focus… Read more »

I’m sorry to inform you but NHTSA did not perform an investigation and was unable to go investigate the fscene or the car since they were furloughed.

As for meeting safety standards, the Pinto also met ALL safety standards, that doesn’t mean a design can’t be improved.

Currently there is no standard for battery protection. NHTSA can’t mandate something that isn’t in the regulations.

Other manufacturers have taken different approaches to battery protection than has Tesla. From the results so far, Tesla is the only manufacturer experiencing a problem with providing protection for the battery. Unfortunately, Tesla appears seems fine with that shortcoming given their response that ‘all cars burst into flames’. I would have hoped Tesla was more introspective and more proactive after the first fire, and certainly after the second fire.


So while CNG, which otherwise look exactly like a gas car, tailpipe and all, only have that tiny diamond at the rear of the vehicle,
“The SAE propose placing standard warning markers on three sides of each EV and near the ignition.”

Good’old SAE, always ready to help when it comes to electrics I see… Heartwarming…


also make an interactive guide for fire fighters, that each manufacture has to provide information in a standardized format, so NFPA can make a app / webside they can use on a tablet
2 dore, 4 dore, 5 dore
car profile roadster, mini van, pickup, …
photos front, side, back
and then instructions for where to cut, where to spray, …


There is NO “shut down” procedure if the battery is caught on fire.

That is the problem with Li-ion battery. You have to “shut it down” before the temperature gets high. But if the high temperature is due to a shortage caused by a mechanical intrusion, then there is NOTHING you can shut down to prevent the fire.

The ONLY way to stop the fire is by eliminate the O2 to the source of the fire….

As a responder, and as an electric vehicle driver, I can tell you that I would much prefer to deal with an 85kwh pack than a 15 gallon plastic gas tank with plastic fuel lines. To illustrate, when approaching car fires, we have the following concerns (not a complete list): 1. Full PPE and SCBA. Car fire smoke is beyond nasty. 2. Approach from upwind. Obvious for visibility and hazmat concerns. 3. Approach from uphill. If not, when the gas tank lets go, you may find yourself standing in a flaming river of gasoline. 4. Approach at a 45 degree angle to the car. This is to avoid being impaled by shock absorbing bumpers, lift assist cylinders, etc… 5. Sweep under the vehicle wth the hose stream on approach to clear fuel. This can get tricky if dealing with nearby exposures. The problem is that due to scene logistics, in many incidents, we are not able to do all five and tradeoff decisons must be made. A good portion of this list is devoted to dealing with an energy storage medium that is liquid and will not necessarily STAY IN THE CAR. Flaming rivers of fuel complicate scene management in… Read more »
EV Safety
We train emergency responders on the subject of Electric Vehicle Charging Station which has become a serious concern. Most fire fighters have yet to even see a charging station and would not know how to properly terminate the power. We have been working on this training for 3 years now and the industry has failed miserably and the general public and emergency responders are in serious trouble. People strongly believe these charging stations are safe and for the most part they are, the problem is the way they are installed and where they are installed. These devices range from 240volts to 480 volts and are installed at gas stations near pumps and also on city streets, college campuses etc. There are no signage, warning labels, owner identification, who to call in case of emergency, etc. Charging stations can be purchased at Lowes, Home Depot etc. and there are no governing programs to follow up and make sure they are installed correctly and there are reports of stations being installed without proper permitting and no program to govern this. We have faced this task alone and we have notified the DOE, NFPA, Federal Government, US FIre Admin, Many federal agencies and… Read more »
EV Safety

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We have contacted numerous Fire Chiefs across the country who have agreed on the need for some type of training and a education program for emergency responders.
The problem is, most fire departments dont have the funding to recieve training and we havent even spoke about Police and EMS who would also need some type of education program about these charging stations.
We strongly believe taxpayer dollars were not properly spent and this program not properly thought out. We have ran across the ney sayers, who dont believe people can not get injured from charging stations and those are the same folks who will be the first to file a major lawsuit when them or a family member was to get injured….never fails….
Vandlism, Theft, and collision are begining to happen in other states and these stakeholders believe us taxpayers should pay for these incidents.
There are plenty of webinars online from the DOE and other organizations, if you have some free time, please listen to some of them and count how many times the word “safety” is used…..its alarming folks…
Demand your local Police, Fire and EMS are properly trained……its a matter of life or Death….