TEEX introduces new training resources for electric vehicle emergency response

February 19, 2024

TEEX unveils electric vehicle training resource for first responders

The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) recently announced the launch of an extensive training resource aimed at assisting first responders in dealing with electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage system (ESS) emergencies.

This initiative includes the publication of a stakeholders’ report, the creation of an informational website, and the development of free training programs.

These resources are designed to equip first responders with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively prevent, prepare for, and respond to the unique challenges presented by EV and ESS fires and related emergencies.

Despite electric vehicles being less prone to ignition compared to their fossil fuel-powered or hybrid counterparts, the nature of EV and ESS fires poses distinct challenges.

These include intense heat, the presence of high-voltage cables, and hazardous materials.

Currently, there are no fully effective extinguishing agents for these types of fires, and the risk of reignition remains for an extended period after the initial incident.

The increasing use of Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries in EVs, micromobility devices, and ESSs further complicates the situation, highlighting the need for specialized training and resources for first responders.

National summit to address Li-ion battery incidents

In response to these challenges, TEEX hosted a summit in October 2023, gathering nationally recognized experts with experience in Li-ion battery incidents.

Participants from various agencies and organizations shared their insights, identified gaps in current knowledge, and recommended best practices for the first responder community.

TEEX Agency Director David Coatney emphasized the importance of collaboration in addressing these issues: “We are pleased to be working with industry partners, national laboratories, federal agencies, and EV manufacturers to conduct testing and develop training and practical solutions for lithium-ion battery fire response issues.

“This initiative is at the core of TEEX’s public safety mission to ensure that the first responder community can make sound decisions to manage these fires safely and effectively.”

The unique hazards of Li-ion battery fires identified during the summit include thermal runaway, electrical shock, fire risks, chemical exposure, and structural failure.

Each of these hazards poses significant risks to first responders, the public, and the environment, underscoring the importance of specialized training and resources.

Training and resources for first responders

Gordon Lohmeyer, division director of TEEX Fire and Emergency Services, highlighted the agency’s efforts to disseminate knowledge and training on EV/ESS fire response: “Because Li-ion battery technology is relatively new, many departments, first responders, and policymakers have limited knowledge of and experience with this battery technology and the related incidents that can occur.

“We have created a repository of information and training resources located on the TEEX website where first responders can obtain the latest information and learn about our agency’s training on preparing for and responding to an EV/ESS fire.”

TEEX has introduced several training programs for first responders, including a no-cost 2.5-hour online course titled “Electric Vehicle (EV) Safety for the First Responder” and a 4-hour in-person course, “Lithium-Ion Response Awareness,” scheduled for March 13-15, 2024, in San Marcos, Texas.

These initiatives are part of TEEX’s commitment to enhancing the safety and effectiveness of first responders dealing with EV and ESS emergencies.

FSJA Comment

The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) development of specialized training for first responders in the realm of electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage system (ESS) emergencies is a timely response to the evolving landscape of public safety concerns.

As EV adoption continues to rise, the potential for related fires and emergencies grows accordingly, presenting unique challenges that demand a specialized response.

TEEX’s initiative underscores the importance of continuous learning and adaptation among first responders.

It also highlights the collaborative efforts between public safety agencies, industry partners, and research institutions in addressing these complex issues.

The proactive approach taken by TEEX serves as a model for similar programs nationwide, ensuring that first responders are well-prepared to protect communities in the face of technological advancements.

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