As a nationwide provider of First Responder Safety Training, and an ongoing effort to support the first responder community, the NAFTC is pleased to provide news and information specific to first responders, as part of its monthly NAFTC eNews. This page includes a monthly column written by NAFTC first responder trainers on alternative fuel vehicle safety and links to external first responder newsletters.
By Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi
Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi are First Responder Contract Trainers for the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC). Mr. Julian has 40 years of experience as a first responder and public safety training in Yuba, CA. Mr. Julian has trained first responders across the United States in safely working with alternative fuel vehicles since 2011. Mr. Garrisi has nearly 30 years of experience as a first responder, and has worked with the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium as a trainer since 2008.
Alternative fuel vehicles, or AFVs, are unlike gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles. But, just because they are different, should the first responder community consider them hazardous? No – but with a caveat.
Change is often uncomfortable, and many people resist new technologies with a fervor. The fire service is no different. If first responders are willing to learn about the differences between electric, gaseous, and biofueled vehicles and their conventional counterparts and accept that specialized knowledge and training is needed to ensure everyone goes home safe, the above question can be answered no. However, if we are unwilling to take the personal responsibility to learn about the differences, then yes, we must consider alternative fuel vehicles as potentially hazardous, because first responders who are unwilling or unable to learn about their differences will contribute to hazardous AFV accident scenes.
It is critical for first responders to understand the importance of proper training on dealing with AFV incidents. Credit: NAFTC/ThinkStock.
Because AFVs are unfamiliar to many, incidents involving AFVs seem to draw excessive news coverage when compared to those involving conventional vehicles. In some cases, like a refuse truck fire in Indiana, responders on scene were trained and responded to the best of their abilities. Others have to be classified as near misses as an obvious lack of training and the implementation of a department’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) without consideration of the specialized vehicle they were addressing made a bad situation worse.
The most frustrating issue hanging over this topic is the knowledge required to correctly address an AFV incident is not much different than a conventional vehicle. Specialized skills in vehicle identification, immobilization, and firefighting can be easily implemented on top of established SOPs when the situation requires.
Please check back for additional links in the coming months.