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NFPA Impact: November 2011

A year ago, I reported that the NFPA was launching a website featuring materials for teaching first responders how to deal with electrical vehicle (EV) incidents.

November 14, 2011
By Sean Tracey

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A year ago, I reported that the NFPA was launching a website featuring materials for teaching first responders how to deal with electrical vehicle (EV) incidents. Now, we can proudly state that the objectives have been met and the training is proceeding ahead of schedule – in the United States. Training in Canada still needs a funding source.

The need for this type of training for first responders has been well substantiated by the NFPA. The NFPA has hosted two electrical-vehicle safety summits in conjunction with the Society of Automobile Engineers International. These summits provided a forum through which all relevant individuals, organizations and agencies contributed to the development of action plans regarding the codes and standards necessary to effectively address safety as it relates to electrified vehicles and their infrastructures.

In addition, the NFPA facilitated 17 fire-service focus groups to identify the need for the training and its components. The necessity of the training is not being questioned in the United States. The NFPA has also struck partnerships with all major stakeholders in the development of the training, and has been commissioned by several manufacturers to development their emergency-response guides.

The NFPA website www.evsafetytraining.org has been launched, and, as of Sept. 1, was fully operational. All the deliverable targets have been met on time or ahead of schedule. The NFPA is being approached by other countries to develop similar platforms for their first responders. A train-the-trainer course is being run out of a number of cities across the United States, and course materials – including a full curriculum – are being made available to all through $4.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The website has the following tools available: downloadable emergency-response guides for most electrical and hybrid vehicles and dates for the train-the trainer conferences being rolled out in each state.

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Unfortunately, despite repeated requests, the training cannot be made available to Canadians, as the program was developed with U.S. Department of Energy grant funds. The funding guidelines prohibit the training from being made available to other countries.

Despite these restrictions, the NFPA has partnered with Red River College in Winnipeg (the electrical vehicle technology experts in Canada) to develop a concept for the Canadian training. The project would Canadianize the U.S. materials by adapting the messaging for any Canadian-specific content and make it available in English and French. The Canadian version of the training program was set out in the Electric Vehicle Technology Roadmap for Canada, a federally funded project undertaken by a steering committee of stakeholders to provide strategic direction to ensure the development and adoption of electronic vehicles in Canada. The training program was to be developed over a two-year period starting in 2012, but this is a significant undertaking and no funding sources have been identified.

In Canada, the responsibility to support the training does not fall to one department but touches a number of federal jurisdictions, including public safety, environment and transportation. In addition, licensing and emergency services on highways is a provincial responsibility. So, after an initial inquiry to office of the Minister of the Environment, and a presentation to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, we are still without a dance partner.

The initial meeting with Public Safety Canada was to point out the need for the project and to request guidance on how to approach the federal government – essentially to solicit a champion for this cause within the federal cabinet. Federal funds are being solicited because the promotion of EV technology is a federal initiative. If this initiative were left to each province to roll out, it would be inconsistently applied across Canada. Also, a portion of the funding for the project is to translate the material into French – a high cost and a necessity. There is precedent for federal funding for this type of training in Ottawa’s support of the IAFF initiative for CBRNE training across Canada. 

On a side note, it is my opinion this is one of the many national initiatives that would benefit from having a national fire advisor through whom the fire service could approach government departments. The roll out of EV programs and the gap analysis performed for the federal government had not even identified any training needs until the NFPA identified these one year ago, and this was by chance more than anything.

To date, the NFPA has approached the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and Canadian Council of Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners to solicit their support in approaching the federal government. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and EMS Chiefs of Canada have also been approached for their support.

The next step is for stakeholders to express their need for the training to Public Safety Canada, and, hopefully, the training will be rolled out without much further delay.


Sean Tracey, P.Eng., MIFireE, is the Canadian regional manager of the National Fire Protection Association International and formerly the Canadian Armed Forces fire marshal. Contact him at stracey@nfpa.org


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