Training on electric vehicles spotlights different response approach

Feb 25, 2023

LAKEVILLE — When electric vehicles crash, the danger to occupants is no more or less significant than to those in conventional automobiles.

But the risk can be different for first responders.

Because of the electrical components, first responders can face the risk of electrocution, particularly when using extrication tools, Lakeville Fire Chief Michael O’Brien said.

Exposed energized electrical components can cause potential fatal consequences to first responders, O’Brien said. 

“We have to be really, really careful,’’ he said.

Lithium batteries, which power the vehicles, can also burn a very high intensity with “great ferocity,’’ O’Brien said, which responders need to be aware of. 

To learn more about the components of these vehicles and how to prepare for the hazards related to their crashes and fires, Lakeville firefighters recently trained at the fire station using a 2023 Toyota BZ4X for hands-on training.  

Working directly with the electric vehicle, which was provided by Route 44 Toyota, provides valuable hands-on training, O’Brien said, which involves a different approach than those used in conventional vehicles. 

Traditional techniques, tactics, and management of vehicle incidents do not apply to electric vehicles, O’Brien said. “Progressive firefighters accept this reality and develop new response procedures to deal with the unique hazards presented by these ever more common vehicles,’’ he said.

By spending time exploring the workings of the electrical vehicles, first responders can learn how to better manage the hazards and respond to incidents without injuries, O’Brien said.

The training was coordinated by Deputy Fire Chief Pamela Garant and Fire Lt. Greg Bradstreet with support by Route 44 Toyota service manager Dennis Tucker.

This was a “valuable program,’’ O’Brien said, that will enhance the safety of the public and first responders.