Fire Engineering Magazine recently published an article with participation by members of our EV safety training staff which provides an overview of the Chevy Volt, its systems, and emergency response procedures. The piece features relevant and useful information about key characteristics to identify a Volt; the vehicle’s construction - including the electrical system, high-voltage battery and occupant protection systems; and a step-by-step guide for responders.
It also emphasizes that first responders must ensure that they understand the technology and operation behind EVs and HEVs to ensure overall safety for all parties involved. We highlighted the specifics of the Chevy Volt in a vehicle profile on our blog earlier this year, but this article provides additional insight regarding the new technologies.
As part of NFPA’s mission to provide the latest information regarding electric vehicles to first responders, we would like to highlight key details noted in this article regarding the appropriate response procedure for a Chevy Volt. Similar information can be found on our website’s vehicle manufacturer resource page and will be included in our soon to be released “Electric Vehicle Emergency Field Guide”:
- Identifying the types of vehicles in a crash is essential. It is more critical than ever for responders to identify the types of vehicles involved in a crash. As green technology and alternative fueled vehicles become more popular, responders should not immediately assume that they are working with conventional vehicles at a crash scene..
- Securing vehicle from potential movement should be priority. Responders should control potential hazards by chocking the wheels, accessing the passenger compartment to set the parking brake, placing the vehicle in park, and shutting down the high voltage system. Specifically, in the case of a Volt follow this two-step process:
- Shut the vehicle downby pressing the power button (found just above the gear selector). If possible then remove the proximity keys from the vehicle.Then, disable the 12v electrical system by using the special cut location provided in the rear of the vehicle. In the rear hatchback, an access panel is found on the driver's sidewall of the cargo area. This access panel displays a logo of a firefighter's helmet to indicate its purpose. Behind the access panel is a bundle of wires in a black wrap with GM's "first responder yellow cut tape" attached to it. Make two cuts, one on either side of the yellow cut tape.
- Extrication operations: Although high voltage cabling and components are not generally found in typical cut points, it is important to inspect the area that is being cut to confirm this. . During extrication, it is important for responders to keep in mind that the Volt is comprised of approximately 80 percent high-strength steel. In order to respond effectively, responders should be aware of their rescue tools' ability to cut through these materials. Also noted in the article are back-up methods for responders in the case their tools are not capable of cutting high-strength steels.
- Vehicle fires and submersions. Traditional firefighting equipment is acceptable to extinguish a Volt that is on fire and water application does not create a shock hazard. In addition, responders can safely operate around a submerged Volt in the same manner as a conventional vehicle or a hybrid.