Danger Posed to First Responders from Battery Fires

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for manufacturers to write vehicle specific response guides for firefighters to combat battery fires. The NTSB found that there are significant gaps in safety standards for battery fires due to high-speed impacts in electric vehicles. The NTSB pointed to a lack of guidelines and safety standards for first responders to combat battery fires from electric vehicles.

Currently, the NTSB is requesting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) include in their car safety rating, whether the manufacturer provides an emergency response guide to prevent thermal runaway in damaged batteries. The emergency response guide would inform firefighters on how to safely discharge the remaining electricity from damaged lithium-ion batteries, preventing reignition of the fire.

In 2017, the NTSB started investigating battery fires in electrical vehicles after several damaged vehicles caught fire, after firefighters had already put the initial fire out. The agency stated that the risk of shock and reignition of fire comes from “stranded energy that remains in a damaged battery”. The NTSB points to a 2017 situation where an electric vehicle caught fire and firefighters dumped thousands of gallons of water on the hood of the vehicle, not realizing the undercarriage of the vehicle needed to be doused with water to cool the battery compartment.

Currently, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has trained approximately 250,000 first responders out of the 1.2 million firefighters nation-wide. The NFPA recommends that the vehicle be jacked up and the battery sprayed with water to prevent reignition. The NHTSA has taken steps recently by announcing a battery safety initiative that will investigate electric vehicle fires and make recommendations.

If you or someone you know has suffered due to a battery related fire, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz, & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll-free at 1-800-594-4884.