The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) recently hosted a Clean Cities Learning Program (CCLP) First Responder Safety Training train-the-trainer course for automotive and fire service instructors from across the country.

Held March 20-21 at NAFTC National Training Center member Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), the class focused on all types of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. The trainers were Mark Schmidt, the NAFTC’s national instructor, and Gary Garrisi, an expert in electric vehicle safety training and a contract instructor with the NAFTC.

The two-day workshop offered four separate sessions with a mix of classroom and hands-on training, covering biofuel, gaseous fuel, hydrogen and electric drive vehicles. With 28 participants in attendance, Schmidt and Garrisi, also a Yuba College instructor and full-time firefighter, team taught the curricula.

“I covered the technical aspects of the vehicles,” Schmidt said. “Gary discussed the related infrastructure, placards and transportation safety as they are relevant to first responders.”

Schmidt commended NOVA’s Automotive Department, led by Program Head Ernest Packer, for allowing the NAFTC to use its vehicles. In addition, NAFTC Assistant Director – Communications and Outreach Judy Moore thanked several organizations and individuals for making various vehicles available for the hands-on portion of the course.

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Seminole State College of Florida Professor of Automotive Technology Jason Gaschel participates in the CCLP First Responder Safety Training at NOVA. Credit: NAFTC

General Motors provided a Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle, and GM fuel cell engineer Yared Tadese was on hand to answer questions during the workshop.

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GM fuel cell engineer Yared Tadese answers questions about the Equinox fuel cell vehicle. Credit: NAFTC

Washington Gas brought a compressed natural gas (CNG) van to the training. The D.C. Department of Public Works provided a propane-powered van, while Alliance AutoGas, represented by Tripp Green, made a propane-powered Ford F-150 available.

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Alliance AutoGas representative Tripp Green explains the workings of a propane-powered vehicle. Credit: NAFTC

“Ron Flowers from the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition was instrumental in helping us secure the alternative fuel vehicles used during the training,” Moore noted. “I’d also like to thank Peter Denbigh and Alleyn Harned from Virginia Clean Cities for their assistance.”

Schmidt and Garrisi also used the NAFTC’s Chevy Volt as a hands-on training tool during the electric drive vehicle module.

“First responders came from all over the United States,” Moore noted. “There was so much actual first responder knowledge in the room. They shared different information and experiences.”

Training attendee Justin Wine, a firefighter with the 130th Airlift Wing Fire and Emergency Services, said it is important for all first responders to know how to respond to alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle accidents.

“It’s nice to see that somebody is including first responders in the process of these new technologies coming out,” he commented. “We’re the ones left to deal with it when something goes wrong. The part that was most beneficial was the hands-on portion – being able to interact with vehicles and seeing where the components are.

This is something that we need to be aware of and know what we’re doing when we come on scene and see an AFV,” Wine added. “We need to know know what we need to do differently to keep everybody safe.”

The Clean Cities Learning Program First Responder Safety Training was developed by the NAFTC, thanks to grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Program. The March 20-21 train-the-trainer workshop was a deliverable under the grant. In addition to NAFTC member automotive instructors, Clean Cities coordinators from across the U.S. invited first responder trainers to attend the training.

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