March 29th, 2017

On Scene


By Jeff Julian and Chris Womock

Jeff Julian and Chris Womock are first responder trainers for the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC). Mr. Julian has 40 years of experience as a first responder and public safety trainer in Yuba, CA. Since 2011, Mr. Julian has trained first responders across the United States in safely working with alternative fuel vehicles. Mr. Womock has 25 years of firefighting experience with the majority of those years at the Indianapolis Fire Department. Mr. Womack has been involved with hybrid vehicle training for the past 3 years and began instruction for the NAFTC last year.

This year, On Scene will focus on case studies of incidents involving Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs).

AFVs are just as safe as conventional vehicles, but they are different. Consequently, incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles require specialized procedures from first responders. This month’s case study is based on an incident involving a Tesla Model S that caught fire and is being provided to show the need for first responders to be properly trained when dealing with these incidents.

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.


In 2013, there were 164,000 vehicle fires on U.S. roads, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Most of these incidents did not make the news. But a Tesla Model S fire in Seattle on October 2nd of that year sure did.

The Tesla’s driver said that he struck some metal debris while traveling on state highway 167, as reported by local media. He exited the highway and the car caught fire on the exit ramp.

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A Tesla Model S caught fire near Seattle after hitting road debris. Credit: TomoNews

Tesla representative Liz Jarvis-Shean said, after the company investigated the incident, that the metal object hit one of the vehicle’s battery pack modules. “This was not a spontaneous event,” she was quoted as saying in an October 3, 2013 Seattle Times article. “Every indication we have at this point is that the fire was a result of the collision and the damage sustained through that.”

The liquid-cooled, 85 kilowatt-hour battery in the Model S is mounted below the passenger compartment floor. The fire was contained to the front of the vehicle as designed, Jarvis-Shean said. Nevertheless, the fire posed problems for firefighters.

Arriving within three minutes of receiving the call, firefighters sprayed the car with water and believed they had extinguished the blaze. However, the fire reignited and the crew turned to a dry chemical extinguisher to battle it. Once it was contained, they used a circular saw to cut an access hole through which they applied water to the battery.

Battery fires often reignite because temperatures within the battery remain high. Firefighters have reported “whooshing” or “popping” sounds, followed by off-gassing of white smoke and electrical arcs/sparks that reignited with visible flames. Water will extinguish these fires but it may take considerable time.

The Society of Fire Protection Engineers notes that best practices for dealing with electric vehicle fires are similar to conventional vehicle tactics:
• identify the vehicle;
• immobilize the vehicle;
• disable the vehicle;
• extrication;
• extinguishment; and
• overhaul operations.

“EDV tactics are generally consistent with current recommendations for ICE tactics,” SFPE reports. “However, first responders must now identify the vehicle prior to immobilizing the vehicle. Other key differences between the two include: the need for copious amounts of water to extinguish an EDV [electric drive vehicle] battery fire, the high voltage electrical hazards associated with EDVs, and the recommendation to store all damaged EDVs at least 50 feet (15 m) from other structures or vehicles post-fire.”

Micheal Smyth, assistant director for training and curriculum development with the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium stresses the importance of knowing about electric vehicles. “First responders should never cut into or puncture the high-voltage battery pack,” he said. “Doing so poses an extreme risk to firefighters. The best technique is to douse the fire with huge amounts of water. If the vehicle is a total loss, first responders can also let the vehicle burn.”

Of course, using proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is vitally important. For an electric vehicle fire, PPE should include boots, turn out gear, standard structural firefighting gloves, helmets, hoods, and full SCBA. Fire fighters performing suppression tasks should not interact with the VFT or battery packs beyond opening or closing compartment access doors in the front or rear of the VFT.

TomoNews developed a short video of this event, using animation to show how the fire likely started. See the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfpHNvb1yzE




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February 27th, 2017

On Scene February 2017


On Scene

By Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi

June 17 JJ 2 Gary

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.


This year, On Scene will focus on case studies of incidents involving Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs).

AFVs are just as safe as conventional vehicles, but they are different. Consequently, incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles require specialized procedures from first responders. This month’s case study is based on an incident involving a garbage truck with a natural gas fuel system and is being provided to show the need for first responders to be properly trained when dealing with these incidents.

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.

In January 2015, a garbage truck running on natural gas had an explosion after a trash fire in the truck caused the carbon fiber cylinders holding the fuel to burst. The blast, in Indianapolis, IN, threw the cylinders as much as a quarter-mile and damaged five nearby businesses.

2-17 OS1

Crews work to clean up debris after a natural gas-powered garbage truck in Indianapolis exploded. Photo courtesty of www.theindychannel.com.

The driver, after picking up trash from a hardware store, noticed a fire in the back of his vehicle and called the fire department. Although it’s protocol for the driver to drop the trash load during a fire, reportedly the driver was worried about nearby power lines and was unable to follow standard operating procedures.

After the fire department arrived, the CNG cylinders began to rupture, and it took an hour to quell the blaze. One firefighter was hit in the head by debris but suffered only minor injuries.

Fires associated with natural gas-powered vehicles are less frequent than with conventionally-powered vehicles. According to a 2008 Clean Vehicle Education Foundation survey based on more than 8,300 natural gas fleet vehicles that traveled over 175 million miles:
• The NGV injury rate was 37% lower when compared to gasoline fleet vehicles;
• There were no fatalities compared with 1.28 deaths per 100 million miles for gasoline fleet vehicles;
• Vehicles were only involved in seven fire incidents, only one of which was directly attributable to failure of the natural gas fuel system.

The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium recommends the following steps for fire fighters when responding to a natural gas-related incident.
• Be sure to identify whether the vehicle is powered by CNG, LNG, or propane.
• Approach the vehicle with caution and only with the appropriate training.
• Eliminate all ignition sources.
• Stay upwind of vapors.
• Look, smell, listen, feel and/or use sensors to detect leaking fuel or a fire.
• If no fire or leak is detected, isolate the fuel system.

For a vehicle fire:
• If the vehicle is on fire or a leak is detected, do not approach the vehicle.
• Isolate the fire, if possible.
• Extinguish the fire.
• Be aware that, if the flame is extinguished without stopping fuel flow, the fire may re-ignite.

In the case of fuel spills or leaks:
• Eliminate all ignition sources and use water spray to reduce vapors or divert vapor cloud drift.

If extrication is necessary:
• Be sure there are no leaks or vapors that could ignite.
• Know cribbing points and cut zones before cutting into a vehicle.
• Avoid cutting critical components.

Just because these type of events are rare doesn’t mean first responders shouldn’t be prepared. Training is key so that fire fighters and other first responders know exactly what to do on the scene.




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By Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi

June 17 JJ 2 Gary

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.


This year, On Scene will focus on case studies of incidents involving Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs).

AFVs are just as safe as conventional vehicles, but they are different. Consequently, incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles require specialized procedures from first responders.

This month’s case study is based on an incident involving a compressed natural gas fuel system and is being provided to show the need for first responders to be properly trained when dealing with these incidents.

On April 3, 2014, residents in Howard, Wisconsin, heard a loud explosion. Arriving at the scene, witnesses found a box truck had been destroyed. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene, and the passenger had been thrown from the vehicle.

The vehicle was operated by Ace Manufacturing Industries, a manufacturer of heavy duty clutches and clutch components. Both the driver and passenger were employees of Ace Manufacturing.

The Howard Fire Department arrived to secure the scene and the area was evacuated in case of additional explosions. Brown County Hazmat Teams were called in to assess the threat of a fuel leak and a reconstruction team to document the scene.

“Something in the load of the vehicle shifted and it compromised the compressed natural gas fuel system, consequently there was a detonation of the fuel system that injured one of the people in the vehicle and there was also a fatality,” said Ed Janke, the director of Howard Public Safety, to local news outlets at the time.

“We notified Green Bay Hazmat team to assist us in our investigation,” said Janke. “They found that the vehicle had actually off gassed [vented to the atmosphere] and we determined the scene was safe.”

The Ace Manufacturing truck was transporting materials between two company facilities on the half-mile long road. During transport the materials slid forward and punctured a compressed natural gas tank stored behind the cab of the truck, causing the tank to explode.

Recognizing the need for first responder safety training in alternative fuel vehicles, the fire officials in Howard and the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College turned to the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) to conduct their First Responder Safety Training to learn proper procedures in responding to incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles.

Just over a month after the incident, 23 first responders and representatives from local fire departments and local fleets attended this two-day safety training at the Howard County Fire Department.

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Training participants examine a CNG Cummins truck during the hands-on portion of the NAFTC’s First Responder Safety Training. Credit: NAFTC.

“We decided to conduct the class to better educate instructors throughout Wisconsin on how to handle events. We had previous training on hybrid electric vehicles only, and this course introduced instructors to other types of vehicles,” said Christopher Hohol, public safety instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. “Training is very important to responders because incidents today are not standard. You cannot confirm easily what is and is not a non-conventional vehicle. This training will assist instructors in delivering that message to responders.”

The NAFTC’s First Responder Safety Training prepares first responders to safely and effectively respond to accidents involving a variety of alternative fuel vehicles, including electric drive vehicles and vehicles that run on natural gas, biofuels, ethanol, hydrogen, and propane. Currently there are courses for firefighters, law enforcement, and EMS personnel.




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December 22nd, 2016

On Scene Year in Review


This year, the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) eNews launched a new column as an ongoing effort to support the first responder community. The column “On Scene: AFVs and First Responders” is written by NAFTC first responder trainers Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi, and provides news and information specific to first responders who may have to work with Alternative Fuel Vehicies (AFVs) at accident scenes.

We began the column by discussing some of the differences between AFVs and conventional vehicles in Alternative Fuel Vehicles – Just as Safe as Conventional Vehicles, But Different. Next, we covered the basic steps of approaching an AFV accident in Approaching an AFV Accident – Scene Control, a 360 Degree Survey, and Vehicle Identification and Approaching an AFV Accident – Vehicle Identification.

Then, we covered specific techniques and equipment for working with an AFV incident in Firefighting Techniques for Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Personal Protective Equipment for Firefighters Responding to Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incidents.

Finally, we discussed training opportunities in On Scene: AFV Training Opportunities.

The information contained in “On Scene” is not a substitute for dedicated AFV safety training, of course. 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.




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By Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi

June 17 JJ 2 Gary

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.

Since 2005, the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium has actively supported the first responder community with educational opportunities on properly and safely responding to automobile incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). Vehicle types covered in these materials include electric drive, propane autogas, natural gas, biofuel and hydrogen powered vehicles. Little did we know that our first small firefighter response booklet would grow into the robust training materials and classes the NAFTC now offers.

4-14 Ocena State Clean Cities

The NAFTC First Responder Safety Training is designed to help first responders acquire the knowledge they need in order to safely and effectively respond to accidents involving alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. Here, the Providence Fire Department examines a Toyota FCHV-adv, a fuel cell hybrid, for the hands-on portion of a 2014 First Responder Safety Training. Credit: Ocean State Clean Cities.

The NAFTC’s suite of award-winning first and second responder courses include:

Firefighter Alternative Fuel Vehicle Safety Training (one-day instructor led class, revised in January 2016)


Law Enforcement Alternative Fuel Vehicle Safety Training (one-day instructor led class, developed in January 2016)


Emergency Medical Services Alternative Fuel Vehicle Safety Training (one-day instructor led class, developed in January 2016)


Electric Drive Vehicle First Responder Safety Training (self-paced online class)


Recycling Safety Training for Alternative Fuel Vehicles (4-hour instructor led class)


Towing and Roadside Assistance Safety Training for Alternative Fuel Vehicles (4-hour instructor led class)

Additionally, new offerings are being developed by the NAFTC for 2017, including:

Recycling Safety Training for Alternative Fuel Vehicles (self-paced online class)


Towing and Roadside Assistance Safety Training for Alternative Fuel Vehicles (self-paced online class)


Propane Autogas Vehicle First Responder Training (self-paced online class)

Subscribe to our email database to be notified when these courses are released.

These classes try to meet the educational needs of a wide variety of learners, presenting information in textbook, classroom, train-the-trainer, and online formats.

Thanks to the NAFTC First Responder Safety Training, first and second responders are arriving on scene at AFV incidents across the country with the proper education and training to safely and effectively deal with the ever increasing number of highway scenarios involving alternative fuel vehicles.

In 2017 we will be covering a series of alternative fuel vehicle incidents that will provide specifics on the response and the outcome.

If you are interested in AFV First Responder Safety Training for you or your department, please visit AFVSafetyTraining.com contact Micheal Smyth or 304-293-7882.




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By Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi

June 17 JJ 2 Gary

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.

One of the first lessons recruit fighters learn is the use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from hazardous environments. All too often firefighters are injured and sometimes killed because PPE is not used or used improperly. Fire department management often times turn a blind eye when it comes to implementing and enforcing policies regarding the use of PPE, but it is imperative that fire departments update standard operating procedures (SOP) regarding use of PPE for incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs).

AFVs are every bit as safe as conventional vehicles, but they are different and must be identified so the proper PPE is used.

The following are suggestions for PPE considerations when dealing with AFVs.

When working on or near vehicles that have high voltage components, such as hybrid vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the primary hazard is the potential for electrocution.
Structure firefighting PPE may give limited protection in these instances. Many fire departments are providing rated high-voltage gloves for their personnel to use when working around vehicles with high voltage components for the added safety of their responders.

October 2016 - OS 1 October 2016 - OS 2

High-voltage gloves and other PPE specific to AFVs and electric drive vehicles should be available to fire fighters who might respond to an accident involving these vehicles. Credit: NAFTC.

When working on or near vehicles that fall under the gaseous fuel vehicles category, such as compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied petroleum gas vehicles (LPG/propane autogas), hydrogen vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (see note at end of article), the primary hazard is fire and the potential for explosion. Structure firefighting PPE will provide some protection if the vehicle is on fire.

Additional consideration should be taken into account in working with liquefied natural gas vehicles. The cryogenic properties of their fuel can cause immediate frostbite on contact. Special hazardous material PPE should be considered when dealing with a leak of liquefied natural gas.

Vehicles that run on blends of ethanol and biodiesel do not present any different hazards compared to conventional vehicles.

The challenge for fire departments and firefighters today and in the future, is to be able to identify the fuel and power sources of all types of vehicles and identify the hazards so proper PPE is used to protect the firefighters. Appropriate AFV safety training is crucial for first responders to work safely on incidents involving these vehicles.

If you are interested in AFV First Responder Safety Training for you or your department, please visit AFVSafetyTraining.com contact Micheal Smyth (Micheal.Smyth@mail.wvu.edu) or 304-293-7882.

*Due to the nature of their fueling systems both the electric systems and gaseous fuel systems should be considered when responding to accidents involving hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.




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By Jeff Julian and Gary Garrisi

June 17 JJ 2 Gary

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.

At this point, it is safe to assume that most firefighters have encountered an alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) at the scene of a traffic incident, and most likely that vehicle was an electric drive vehicle (EV) as EVs are the most prevalent alternative fuel vehicle on our highways. However as the growth of other types of AFVs continues, techniques for other fuels are and will be required for the safe resolution to vehicle fires.

Vehicle types that could be encountered by today’s firefighters include:

  • electric drive (including hybrid-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles)

  • compressed natural gas vehicles

  • propane autogas vehicles

  • ethanol vehicles

  • biodiesel vehicles

  • hydrogen vehicles

Each of the above mentioned fuels require their own unique firefighting techniques and failure to recognize this can create life threatening issues for both the firefighter and the public they are dedicated to protecting.

This article cannot replace proper training, but some basic concerns of dealing with these fuels would include:

  • Compressed natural gas is stored in vehicles at pressures of up to 3600 psi in fiber wrapped tanks.

  • Electric drive vehicle batteries are encased in a steel enclosure, which should never be compromised by the firefighter.

  • Propane autogas is heavier than air, therefore a leak at the scene of an incident could cause the fuel vapors to pool in low lying areas near or around the car.

  • Ethanol fires require waterless firefighting techniques.

  • Many alternative fuel vehicles are “bi-fuel” in configuration, meaning they have two different fuel tanks and fuel sources.

  • Liquefied natural gas is a cryogenic, and can cause severe burns if handled incorrectly.

  • Hydrogen can be stored in pressure vessels up to 10,000 psi and is extremely flammable if vented outside the tank.

To conclude, we encourage each and every firefighter to educate themselves on these new vehicle technologies and the proper procedures to deal with them. Alternative fuels are moving into both the light- and heavy-duty marketplace and as further government regulations requiring more stringent emission and fuel economy standards push automakers into new vehicle territory, alternative fuel vehicles are and will become even more popular to today’s consumers.

Next month, On Scene will cover proper personal protective equipment for incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles.




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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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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.

Approaching the scene of an automobile incident involving an alternative fuel vehicle initially requires no techniques different than those gained in standard firefighter training. Rather, if a firefighter follows their department’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) for vehicular incidents half the alternative fuel vehicle battle has been won.

The NAFTC sees the education process for alternative fuel vehicle firefighter techniques an opportunity to not only educate on new and important skills, but to reemphasize basic firefighting techniques that can sometimes get lost or forgotten over time.

At the scene of a vehicular incident, a firefighter should:


  • 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.

  • immobilize the vehicle by chocking the wheels.

  • if there are passengers still in the vehicles, make initial patient contact, while simultaneously determining if the vehicle is still in operation (ignition on, engine running). Use the vehicle’s power options to maximize patient access (adjust power seats, power windows, power door locks).

  • place vehicle in park, set the parking brake.

  • turn off the ignition by reaching behind the steering wheel (to avoid the steering wheel airbags).

  • if a smart key is present, remove the smart key at least 25 feet from the vehicle. Also be aware that a second smart key may be present in the vehicle, especially if there are two occupants.

  • turn on the hazard lights to verify that the 12 volt system is still active.

  • confirm that the dashboard instrument panel is off. This will confirm that the vehicle has in fact been switched off.

  • locate and disconnect the 12 volt battery by first cutting 3 to 4 inches from the negative battery cable. Secondly, cut 3 to 4 inches from the positive battery cable.

  • verify that the hazard lights are not inoperative to confirm that the 12 volt system is now inactive.

  • extricate the patients following your department’s SOPs.
  • While the above described techniques may seem basic in nature, they should always be followed at ANY vehicular incident. Without proper basic training, firefighters put themselves at risk whether the vehicles involved are conventionally powered or alternatively fueled.

    The next article in this series will educate on the proper ways to identify an alternative fuel vehicle, and how to add this education onto the above standard procedures.

    As always, the NAFTC would like to thank the brave men and women who respond to these incidents and encourage you to stay safe.




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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.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles – Just as Safe as Conventional Vehicles, But Different

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.


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.

June 17 OS 1

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.

If you are interested in AFV First Responder Safety Training for you or your department, please visit AFVSafetyTraining.com or contact Micheal Smyth (Micheal.Smyth@mail.wvu.edu) or 304-293-7882.

External First Responder News Links (Information may not be specific to alternative fuel vehicles)

Please check back for additional links in the coming months.

FDIC International
Fire Engineering
Fire EMS




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