The more electric cars drive on German roads, the more they become an issue for the fire department. At their national congress this week, the focus was on current findings in firefighting and fire protection under the title “Electromobility as a challenge”. According to Christian Emrich, fire director of the Munich fire brigade, the public fire brigades do not need any special equipment, “water is sufficient for extinguishing”.
The fire brigade’s job is to fight fires and rescue people, said Emrich. When electric vehicles burn, “no more and no less” have to be done than before. After an electric car has been extinguished, it should be properly handed over to a towing company, which has adapted to this over the years.
However, electrification on the street is less of a challenge: “The batteries on the street are the safest batteries that we have in circulation,” explained Emrich. Particular attention should be paid to vehicle fires in buildings and underground car parks due to the high thermal load. On the one hand, action against the fire must be taken as quickly and consistently as possible, and on the other hand, the statics of the building are an important issue. “In addition to the cooling of components, the assessment from the outside, especially based on the duration of the fire attack, is essential,” explained Emrich.
At the beginning of a firefighting operation involving an electric car, the tactics had to be adjusted with the reconnaissance, explained Marcel Hommens from the Rhineland-Palatinate State Fire Brigade Association. In addition to the squad for rescuing people on the vehicle and the one that ensures fire protection, another should be ready with respiratory protection, a fan and, if available, a rescue hood called a Respihood.
Basically, the fire brigades have all the resources at their disposal to deal with such situations, said Hommens. It is important to obtain information – in the case of an electric car that has been involved in an accident, about how it is constructed. A rescue map could show where the batteries are located. These could then be checked with a thermal imaging camera.
If it is noticed that a battery’s temperature is rising, cooling might initially make sense to slow down the process. The rescue mode should be adjusted early on with the rescue service. If the thermal runaway can no longer be prevented, air must be supplied to an accident victim and the emergency services, while the fire-fighting team works with respiratory protection. At the same time, air should be supplied to the patient via the respiratory hood.
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