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Wyden bill would give first responders resources to saefly clean up from electric vehicle crashes


WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation Thursday that would require federal agencies to provide electric vehicle safety information, testing standards, and training materials for local first responders across the nation.

Electric vehicles pose a unique challenge to first responders used to dealing with traditional vehicles. Batteries are often damaged in accidents, exposing the passengers and emergency personnel to hazardous chemicals, electric shocks, and battery fires. These fires are not only unusually hot, but they also can spontaneously reignite hours after they are extinguished.

But only 25 percent of active firefighters are trained in responding to EV-related emergencies.

“EVs bring new opportunities for green transit and lowering emissions, but they also present new dangers for first responders to tackle,” Wyden said. “As more Americans transition to EVs, it’s essential that we give firefighters and other emergency personnel the tools they need to keep people out of harm’s way.”

Specifically, the SAFER EVs Act would require the federal Department of Energy, the federal Department of Transportation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate efforts on EV safety and testing standards while providing first responders with proper training.

First, the Energy Department would collaborate with the Transportation Department and various stakeholders to produce a technical report on EV safety information for emergency responders. In addition, the Energy Department would need to consult with the National Fire Protection Association to update EV training standards and safety information and make them accessible.

The SAFER EVs Act would:

  • Authorize an additional $10 million annually for State Fire Training Grants to support widespread EV-specific training delivery.
  • Require the coordinating agencies to revisit the technical report and update it every three years to keep up with technological and research advancements.
  • Require the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to consider emergency response guides provided by the vehicle manufacturer when assessing a vehicle’s New Car Assessment Program score.
  • Require the publication and distribution of EV emergency response guides to all first and second responders, such as tow truck operators and salvage yard owners.

“I thank Senator Wyden for his dedication to ensure that first responders have the necessary training and tools to mitigate fires involving electric vehicles,” said Fire Chief John S. Butler, President and Chair of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

“First responders often encounter distinctive challenges when responding to an EV incident. One example is when first responders encounter a vehicle experiencing thermal runaway. If first responders are unfamiliar with how to deal with these emerging hazards, more injuries and deaths will be the result. This bill is a great first step for helping emergency responders prepare for EV fires. It will increase federal agency coordination, deploy a nationwide EV fire training campaign, and simplify grant requirements for personal protective equipment. I welcome the introduction of the SAFER EVs Act and urge the Senate to consider its swift passage. “

The bill text is here. The one-pager is here.

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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