A plan to preview the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle for rescue workers marks a milestone in the auto industry’s relationship with emergency service providers, says a spokeswoman for a leading firefighters’ organization.
Co.’s Chevy division and the auto maker’s OnStar telematics subsidiary are unveiling today in San Francisco a nationwide campaign to educate first responders about the safety implications of affecting rescues at accident scenes involving electric vehicles.
“We believe a first-responder educational program is a needed step,” Chevrolet Safety Director Carmen Benavides says, noting the Volt features a 360-volt battery.
The campaign also represents a welcome step because information exchange between the auto industry and emergency service providers has been a “mixed bag” of local-level networking, suggests Ann Davison, of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Vehicles have been equipped with airbags since the 1970s, but only within the last 10 years have auto makers been labeling inflator locations to help rescue workers avoid cutting them with extrication tools – an event that can spark a small explosion.
“As the automotive industry changes, it’s critical for first-responders to have the training that prepares them to engage with new technology,” Davison says.
The Volt-based training is scheduled to begin in August in Chicago. Later sessions will be held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington.
The training will feature animated and illustrated depictions of the Volt’s construction, highlighting locations of high-strength steel, cut points for extrication, first-responder labeling and the car’s automatic and manual electrical shut-off systems.
Because rescue workers have been involved in the development of the training program, “it also reflects the reality of the emergency environment they work in,” Davison says.
For instance, first-responders will be warned about where the Volt employs boron-coated steel because some extrication tools are unable to cut it easily.
“We have actually been dealing very specifically with that issue,” says Tom Jeffers, OnStar vice president-public policy.
OnStar fits neatly into the mix because the service can advise emergency service dispatchers if a Volt is involved in an accident. First responders tehn can refer to a website featuring relevant information.
“They can pull it up on their computers as they’re arriving on scene to refresh themselves on the knowledge they have already been trained on,” Jeffers says.
Asked if a smartphone application might be in the works to further assist first responders, Jeffers adds: “That’s not necessarily ruled out.”