June 17 JJ 2 Gary

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.

Note: The information contained in this article is not a substitute for dedicated Alternative Fuel Vehicle Safety Training. Attempting to assist with a vehicle incident of any kind without proper knowledge, skills, and experience can be dangerous and may result in harm to the responder and those involved in the incident.

As a continuation of our description on proper response to an alternative fuel vehicle incident, we will now move forward into one of the most important processes for firefighters to follow: accurate vehicle identification. If a vehicle involved in a traffic incident is not properly identified as an alternative fuel vehicle, the firefighter puts himself and vehicle occupants at risk as special procedures need to be added to their department’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) when dealing with these non-standard fuels. Vehicles that fall into this scenario would include:

Electric Drive Vehicles

  • Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (HEV)
  • Battery-Electric Vehicles (BEV)
  • Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (PHEV)
  • Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)

Gaseous Fuel Vehicles

  • Propane Autogas Vehicles (LPG)
  • Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles (CNG)
  • Liquefied Natural Gas Vehicles (LNG)
  • Hydrogen Powered Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle

Biofuel Vehicles

  • Ethanol Powered Vehicles
  • Biodiesel Powered Vehicles

It is paramount that firefighters arriving on scene properly identify the fuel type of EACH vehicle involved so that proper procedures can be applied to each vehicle. The importance of proper identification increases if secondary issues arise, such as leaking fuel or vehicle fire.

As a review from the previous article in this series, a firefighter should, at the scene of a vehicular incident first:

  • verify he or she is wearing the proper personal protective equipment as specified by their department. This should include (per NFPA 1981 and 1971) a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA); turnout pants and coat; flame retardant hood; approved boots; helmet; face shield or goggles; and fire resistant gloves.
  • park the emergency response vehicles uphill and upwind from the scene of a vehicular incident.
  • do not rush into the scene of a vehicular incident! First, evaluate the scene and its possible hazards before attempting vehicle immobilization or extrication. Do a complete 360-degree circumnavigation of the incident from a safe distance, looking for important details such as leaking fuels, smoke, fire, flammable but invisible vapors, while simultaneously attempting to identify the vehicle or vehicles involved.

As the firefighter performs his 360-degree review of the incident scene, they should be attempting to identify the vehicles involved and the type of fuel that powers them. Different methods of identification include:

  • Looking for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) badges and labels that identify the vehicle as an alternative fuel vehicle.
  • Examine the rear of the vehicle for industry-standard diamond labels that identify the vehicle as a gaseous fuel vehicle (natural gas, propane autogas, or hydrogen).
  • Look for secondary fuel/charging ports that differ from conventional gasoline or diesel fueling. Be sure to look inside of the fuel doors for any possible changes in the conventional fueling system.
  • Examine the vehicle’s dash for non-standard gauges or instrumentation.
  • Note any orange cabling that could denote an electric drive vehicle.
  • If possible, look under the vehicle’s hood for unique labeling and orange or blue cabling.

Once a vehicle has been identified as being fueled or powered by a non-standard fuel, they should inform ALL other on-scene first responders as to the make-up of the vehicles involved. This information should also be relayed to any secondary responders that arrive, including tow operators.

By utilizing the tips listed above, first responders can correctly identify an alternative fuel vehicle, assuring that they can implement proper training and procedures on vehicle fire and patient extrication.

The next article in this series will educate on the proper firefighting techniques for alternative fuel vehicles, including gaseous fuels, biofuels, and electric drive vehicles.

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