Battery and Electrical System Management

SUBJECT: Battery and Electrical System Management TOPIC: Battery Shutdown Protocol OBJECTIVE: The rescue team shall develop a set of standardized procedures for safe and effective shutdown of a fire or crash-damaged vehicles' electrical system based...


SUBJECT: Battery and Electrical System Management TOPIC: Battery Shutdown Protocol OBJECTIVE: The rescue team shall develop a set of standardized procedures for safe and effective shutdown of a fire or crash-damaged vehicles' electrical system based upon vehicle condition, position and...


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Engine company personnel assigned to electrical system shutdown also assume responsibility for unplugging any and all electrical accessory devices or appliances from the cigarette lighter and all accessory power ports inside the vehicle."

Vehicle Electrical Shutdown Tactical Procedures

When the decision has been made to disconnect or "double cut" the battery cables, the following training outline can help make sure that the process is efficient and that the desired outcome is achieved.

I. Inside Rescuer/EMS Responder

Once access is gained to passenger compartment, determine need for operation of any electrically powered features of the vehicle and activate features as deemed safe and appropriate:

  • Unlock all doors with electric door-lock switch...
  • Lower door window glass with electrically powered window switches...
  • Move electrically powered seats as necessary...
  • Unlock and release inside trunk release latch with electrically powered button, then...

Turn ignition switch of vehicle to "OFF" position if possible, then...

Operate inside hood-release mechanism to release hood latch.

II. Locating Battery (or Batteries) by Outside Fire/Safety Personnel;

Position portable dry chemical fire extinguisher (or equivalent) at vehicle, then...

Assess condition of bumper and front of vehicle, then…

Approach front of vehicle to open hood if safe to do so. (If unsafe to work at front of vehicle, move personnel to side fenderwell area to access engine compartment), then…

Open hood (If hood is jammed, forcibly open hood at latch or hinge assembly), then...

Bend one hood hinge 90 degrees to maintain hood in up/open position (if hinge style is flat metal), then...

Determine location of single or multiple batteries (if the battery is not located in the engine compartment, determine alternate location and gain access to battery), then...

Initiate hazard control activities if physical damage to battery has caused safety concern (acid/fluid spill, fumes, open arc/sparks, fire), then...

Communicate with inside medical personnel to coordinate timing of electrical system shutdown. Advise that you have located the battery and intend to shut down electrical power. Request if they have operated interior electrical features or if they desire to operate electric door locks, power windows, trunk latch, etc, if safe and appropriate.

III(a). Shutting Down Power at Battery by Disconnecting

If tactic is to disconnect cables at battery terminals, disconnect ground cable clamp and fold cable back onto itself, securely wrapping it with insulating tape to protect bare cable clamps from contacting bare metal surfaces.

Repeat disconnect procedure of "hot" cable clamp (typically red color) from terminal post on battery.

III(b). Shutting Down Power at Battery by "Double Cutting"

If tactic is to "double cut" cables, using a cutting tool, cut each ground (-) cable (typically black color) first using care not to touch any metal part of the chassis with the cable or your cutting tool, thus minimizing risk of creating a spark, then...

Cut each negative battery cable a second time to remove an approximately two inch-long section from each cable, preventing any unwanted electrical contact after task is completed...

Cut positive (+) battery cable(s), also cutting each "hot" cable a second time to remove a minimum two-inch section, completely taking the battery out of the electrical system, then...

Recheck that all cables or wires on all sides of the battery have been cut away from the battery, then…

IV. Pull the Plugs

Remove any electrically powered accessory device (laptop, DVD, cell phone, etc.) plugged into the interior cigarette lighter outlets or second- or third-row power ports to prevent "power backfeeding."

V. Confirm Power Shutdown

Assess if there is any evidence that power from the battery is still running any part of the electrical system of the vehicle.

• Note that dome light should now be off, no interior door panel lights on an opened door are illuminated, horn and car radio are silent, headlights and parking lights are off, etc.

If electrical system remains energized after shutting down the obvious battery located under the hood, determine location of additional battery and repeat shutdown tactics for second battery, then...