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GM Expands EV Emergency Training for First Responders

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 2022-07-03 Sebastian Blanco
  • General Motors is starting up a new EV First Responder Training program to go along with its expanding lineup of electric vehicles that includes the Chevrolet Bolt EV, GMC Hummer EV, and Cadillac Lyriq.
  • The new training materials are being made available online as well as through in-person sessions throughout the U.S. and Canada. Anyone who works as a first responder will be able to get a completion certificate from the Illinois Fire Service Institute when they pass the session.
  • The National Fire Protection Association, which is assisting GM in this new project, already has EV and alternative-fuel safety materials from more than 60 vehicle manufacturers available on its website. And Tesla also has emergency-response manuals for all of its models.

Much has been made of the massive battery pack in the GMC Hummer EV. After all, that pack weighs 2923 pounds, nearly as much as an entire small car—say, a 2018 Honda Fit, which has a curb weight of 2595 pounds. With that kind of heft, the amount of energy potentially contained in the Hummer’s battery pack could be a source of concern for first responders approaching the scene of an incident involving one of these new electric vehicles.

GM says its OnStar system already has the ability to tell first responders know if an EV is involved in an incident. To give those first responders confidence that they know how to handle such a situation, General Motors announced this week that it is expanding efforts to train emergency personnel in the U.S. and Canada to better deal with EV emergencies.

Illustration of battery pack in the Chevrolet Bolt EV, from emergency guide. © General Motors Illustration of battery pack in the Chevrolet Bolt EV, from emergency guide.

GM has released a new EV First Responder Training program that not only provides vital information on the technology inside of an electric vehicle but also details industry best practices for dealing with EVs—and electrified vehicles like hybrids—in all kinds of potentially difficult situations. GM will train people using the program not only with live presentations but also presentations from experts, videos, and virtual demonstrations, the company said. GM is scheduling four-hour safety presentations in various cities through its website and is offering certificates through the Illinois Fire Service Institute to those who successfully complete the sessions.

"The best way for the public and private vehicle fleet owners to rapidly adopt EVs is to train firefighters and emergency responders on how to handle incidents involving battery powered vehicles," Andrew Klock of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) said in a statement. "The fire service has had more than 100 years to gain the knowledge needed to respond to internal-combustion engine fires, and it is critical that they are now educated on EV safety."

From the GMC Hummer EV emergency guide. © General Motors From the GMC Hummer EV emergency guide.

Guides for EV Emergencies

GM is, of course, not the first or only automaker to provide these kinds of educational materials to first responders. Tesla has a website devoted to "helping fire departments and first responders safely handle emergency situations involving all Tesla products," including all of the company’s EVs as well as Superchargers and solar roof panels. The NFPA hosts a collection of Emergency Response Guides from more than 60 alternative-fuel-vehicle manufacturers, ranging from small companies like Lucid to large truck builders like Freightliner. The NFPA has been working with alternative-fuel automakers since 2010 on making these kinds of guides free and easy to access.

From the Tesla Model S emergency guide. © Tesla From the Tesla Model S emergency guide.

In announcing its new program, GM said learning about safe ways to deal with an EV in an emergency situation can also benefit owners. If you’re an EV owner, it might be worth clicking around to find a first responder guide for your own car and think of it as beach reading this summer.

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