Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Safety – A Little Context
We all know that safety of rescue personnel is the single most important consideration during operational activities, whether that is during training or whilst actually attending an incident. I often blog about issues that affect safety as it is something I think cannot be revisited often enough.
With the increase in alternatively fuelled vehicles, in particular electric and hybrids, it is important to know how to safely deal with such cars in the situation of an extrication/fire/immersion etc. I have covered the operational considerations in a previous blog so feel free to review the info.
Hybrid and electric vehicles are one of the Big 3 topics that people regularly engage me on when carrying out training around the world. Along with vehicle construction and airbags/SRS systems this is one of the principle areas of concern in respect of safety. Of course we cannot deny that dealing with hybrids/electric vehicles requires a considered response but I think it is important to contextualize the potential risks involved, especially when you consider that it is still a hotly talked about safety topic.
20 Years in the Market
Hybrids have been commercially available for nearly 2 decades and although they still make up only a small proportion of overall vehicle sales (2.22% of new car sales in 2014) we still need to be prepared. As recently as yesterday I received a request for information regarding incidents of fire fighters/rescuers being electrocuted as a result of extrication from such vehicles. I spent a great deal of time researching this, phoning worldwide contacts and trawling the internet. My hard work yielded zero results. Of course that is not to say it has not happened, but I was not able to find any information regarding any kind of injury (or worse) inflicted during extrication. Now let’s stop and think here. Around the world every day there are many hundreds of extrications taking place and a proportion (albeit small) will be from these kinds of vehicles. Yet we are not aware of any injuries in nearly 20 years.
High Voltage Injuries
Interestingly (and depressingly) though, my research did reveal many cases of fire fighters being injured and sadly killed by high voltage electricity, however the source was not from vehicles. Statistically the presence of high voltage in buildings and overhead powerlines causes far more problems to emergency service workers than that contained in alternatively fuelled vehicles. The saddest example had to be the US firefighters who were electrocuted whilst taking part in the “ice bucket challenge” which swept through social media in 2015. The incident occured when the hydraulic platform they were on contacted high voltage overhead cables.
Statistically, high voltage contained within structures presents a greater risk than high voltage in hybrid/electric vehicles
Let me be clear, I am not saying there is not a risk here; I am simply, once again, trying to add a little context. We must still prepare for dealing with such vehicle types and be robust in our approach, but should the safety aspects of hybrids and vehicles be so high on everyone’s index of suspicion? I cannot answer that question, but the facts and figures, it would appear, speak for themselves.
Written by Ian Dunbar, read more of this blogs here.