High holiday road travel predictions prompt IAFF, IAFC, NFPA, and NVFC to remind responders and others about unique electric vehicle safety considerations


May 27, 2021– According to AAA, more than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive to their destinations this year. The advocate for safe mobility predicts a 52 percent increase in vehicle travel this Memorial Day weekend over last year and reports that 34 million Americans are planning to take road trips now that COVID-19 restrictions are loosening up.

In the interest of public and responder safety, leading fire service organizations are reminding firefighters, EMS providers, and roadside service providers about the unique safety considerations that exist with electric vehicles (EVs). The International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Fire Protection Association, and the National Volunteer Fire Council are encouraging first and second responders to review the guidance offered by NFPA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) so that incidents involving EVs this holiday weekend can be safely addressed.

While EVs are great for the environment, new technologies often present a learning curve. To help firefighters and others skill up, NTSB investigated four EV incidents and released a report on safety hazards and shortcomings. In particular, the NTSB identified two concerning trends:

  • Inadequate vehicle manufacturers’ emergency response guides
  • Gaps in both safety standards and research related to lithium-ion batteries involved in high-speed, high-severity crashes

The NTSB also found, in part, that:

  • Damage and fire because of a crash may prevent first responders from disabling the high voltage in electric vehicles
  • Thermal runaway and battery reignitions after initial fire suppression can pose additional challenges
  • Stranded energy can cause electric shock and potential fire hazards
  • Safely storing an electric vehicle with a damaged high-voltage lithium-ion battery in a tow yard may not be feasible

NFPA has been generating EV safety information for 12 years. The association has worked with every auto/truck/bus manufacturer who sells EVs and hybrids in this country and has received pre-market safety information so that responders have the most up-to-date training, tools, and resources. With heavy highway and side street traffic expected in the upcoming weekend, firefighters, paramedics, and tow truck operators are encouraged to visit the NFPA EV Safety Training website, www.evsafetytraining.org. The dedicated site offers videos on stranded energy, responder tactics, a fact sheet with on-scene safety information, and direct links to all NFPA EV Safety Training courses and vehicle resources, including U.S. EV Emergency Response Guides.

Last week, the National Advisory Committee of the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) unanimously approved a resolution offered by NFPA and cosponsored by IAFC, NVFC, and others that emphasized the need to educate and equip first responders on the safety challenges posed by emerging technologies such as EVs.

In approving the resolution, the CFSI showed its support of federal legislation, funding, and policies that:

  1. Educate and inform first responders, enforcement personnel and others about the unique safety issues related to emerging technologies;
  2. Facilitate the development and distribution of information, education, and other resources needed to address the safety issues related to new technologies; and
  3. Promote the use and enforcement of the most current consensus-based codes and standards that address new technologies.

To keep pace with the evolving needs surrounding EVs, NFPA is currently working on two related Department of Energy (DOE) grant projects. The first, entitled NFPA Spurs the Safe Adoption of EVs through Education and Outreach, will allow the association to develop free EV safety training for utilities, code officials, charging station installers, EV fleet owners, tow and salvage responders, crash reconstruction teams, dealerships, garage maintenance workers, insurance companies, and EV owners. As part of that effort, NFPA, in conjunction with Clean Cities Coalitions, will also set up community planning meetings in 30 cities around the country to help prepare these locations for a large influx of EVs. The second effort calls for enhancing and promoting the NFPA Distributed Energy Resources Safety Training program. NFPA will update its current EV Safety classroom training for the fire service and develop an online gamification version of the distributed energy resource including how to respond to electric vehicle fires.

For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research, and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275