The program, aptly called “Electric Vehicle Safety: Prepare to Respond,” was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and partnered with several auto manufacturers, particularly General Motors, Nissan and Ford.
The project encompasses training material, a video, programming and a website, all designed to help responders learn more about an increasingly popular mode of transportation that is now found on highways nationwide.
A Training Video is Born
Have you ever been to an auto collision that has a dedicated concession stand to feed the rescuers? How about a simple pop-the-door extrication that takes two days?
How about responding to the same crash repeatedly, each time with someone saying, “action”? Or a scene where the “director” says “CUT,” but doesn’t mean to take the roof off the vehicle?
There’s a group of firefighters in northern New Hampshire who have experienced that kind of scene. They were part of a training video produced by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
NFPA was awarded a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop an electric vehicle training program for the nation’s first responders. It was part of an initiative to develop alternative energy sources and provide training for people who would be responding to crashes involving electric and hybrid vehicles. Within the next year, it’s anticipated that more than one million hybrid vehicles will be on the road.
Last fall, firefighters from Haverhill Corner and Piermont, two fire departments in the Upper Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire, spent two days rehearsing and filming a simple, single-person extrication from a mock head-on collision. It was preceded by several fire academy-level extrication training and practice sessions – all to get prepared for a moment of fame in front of the cameras.
On the other side of the country, firefighters in Reno, Nev., participated in the same filming, doing much of the same scenario. The NFPA told participants the idea was to show “generic” firefighters and equipment, therefore viewers won’t know what departments they are seeing, without some inside knowledge.
As a matter of full-disclosure, I am a firefighter and EMT with the Haverhill Corner Fire Department. As such, I participated in the training and filming of the video, although I do not believe I appear on camera in any of the shots made available so far – so don’t go looking.
The Collaboration Begins
It was an interesting experience that began with a conversation late last summer. A member of the Piermont Fire Department, Rich Dion, was hired as an NFPA consultant to work on the electric vehicle project. He thought it would be a good idea to use volunteers in rural New England communities for the filming of the video.
“NFPA has often used paid actors and career firefighters for their videos, but not volunteers,” Dion told us, indicating it was the first time NFPA agreed to the concept. “I believe volunteers can do just as well as the career guys.”
And so, the collaborative venture between Piermont and Haverhill Corner fire departments and NFPA was created.
The first step was to see if the members of the department were interested in the project. The initial meeting showed strong interest from many of the departments – participation by the end, however, was somewhat diminished as the firefighters began to realize it was going to take a huge time commitment to complete. For me, I used the training toward my continuing education credits to keep my national EMT certification updated.
Preparing for the Role