First responders train with GM to handle electric vehicle emergencies

General Motors held an exercise in Thornburgh to train local first responders in advanced methods of safely dealing with electric vehicle crashes and fires.

gm-ev-first-responder-training-02 A firefighter from the Illinois Fire Service Institute demonstrates best practices for removing occupants from electric vehicles by cutting out the interior structural components of a GMC HUMMER EV pickup truck. Emergency responders are taught to pay attention to the orange wiring that indicates high voltage.

The yellow sticker provides guidance on where to disconnect the vehicle’s standard 12-volt circuit and is a new industry practice to assist emergency responders. GM’s training includes guidance on how to do this more economically to keep the battery management systems running.

gm-first-responder-ev-safety-training A firefighter from the Illinois Fire Service Institute demonstrates best practices for removing occupants from electric vehicles by cutting through the windshield pillar of a GMC HUMMER EV Pickup. First responders are taught to avoid the floor under the passengers, where the battery modules are located.

General Motors held a two-day exercise this week in Thornburg, Virginia, training local first responders to safely deal with electric vehicle fires and accidents.

“We hope to dispel a lot of fears and dispel some of the misconceptions about electrified vehicles” among rescuers, said Joseph McLain, a global product and systems safety engineer for General Motors.



The exercise was held at Dominion Raceway in Thornburgh and involved dozens of fire and police departments from the region. An FBI team came to observe, McLain said.

One common misconception is that water can be dangerous around an electric car battery during a fire.

“In all of our rescue documents, we say we need to use a lot of water,” McLain said.

Emergency workers looked at the Chevy Bolt, which had caught fire. This model was recalled due to a battery defect, which was blamed on the supplier LG.

Emergency responders also checked the crashed GMC Hummer EV to see where it was safe to cut to get someone out of the vehicle.

“Orange identifies things that may be under the hood or in areas of the vehicle that we don’t want emergency responders to interact with,” McLain said.

In a press release, GM said the National Fire Protection Association “has led its own EV education efforts with 300,000 first responders, but estimates are over 800,000 additional community members in need of further training.”

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