First Responders Learn to Deal with Electric-Vehicle Accidents


As the number of electric vehicles on Illinois roads grows, so does the danger of injury for emergency medical technicians and firefighters responding to EV accidents. The auto industry is beginning to offer training for first responders – particularly those in rural areas – to deal with the high voltage and other dangers found in EVs. Beginning next week in suburban Chicago, General Motors and the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute will kick off a national tour, offering two days of information and training. For the uninitiated, said Joe McLaine, a staff engineer at GM, cutting into an electric vehicle can be very dangerous.

“Most electrified vehicles around the world have high-voltage components,” he said. “High-voltage components could be potentially dangerous if you were to handle things. We, as an industry, have moved toward identifying those potentially hazardous high-voltage components with the color orange.”

McLaine said the training, offered at no cost, covers details about battery and EV technology, dispels misconceptions and shares best practices. Next week’s sessions are Wednesday and Thursday in Wheeling.

For information or to register, look online at While the training is open to all first responders, McLaine said it’s particularly important for rural EMTs and firefighters, many of whom are volunteers and may not have the same training as professionals.

“Most of the fire services in the United States, the vast majority are from volunteer fire departments,” he said. “Where we’ve gone around the country, and where we’ve targeted certain areas that we deliver this training, we have seen a tremendous outpouring of support and appreciation for delivering this training.”

McLaine said the sessions will teach first responders about how to approach high-voltage disconnect and stabilization, venting, flames, arc flash and unswitched energy – as well as the differences between internal combustion engines and EVs.

“What we have done with the in-person, hands-on training is absolutely not lecture-based,” he said. “We have people interact with the product, get ‘up close and personal’ with many of the battery components, the high-voltage motors and the other components, as well as a whole host of vehicles.”

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