Chevy and OnStar train first responders on Volt

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As a former firefighter/paramedic, I am glad to see that automakers are providing training for first responders before a new type vehicle hits the streets and forces them to “learn from experience.” Training and preparation is key to successful incident response and reaction and Chevrolet is teaming up with OnStar to prepare emergency personnel for the arrival of Volt.??

When hybrids first hit the mass market about a decade ago, I grabbed a Toyota Prius and a Honda Insight from the press fleets and visited several area fire departments here in north Texas to give emergency personnel the opportunity to see the vehicles up close and learn the facts surrounding how to respond to emergencies involving these vehicles.

I believe that everyone can benefit from a bit of knowledge concerning the operational characteristics of the coming wave of electric vehicles, as well as current hybrids that are capable of operating in electric-only mode. Warning, a little conscious re-thinking may be involved.

First and foremost is that these vehicles are nearly silent. Care has to be taken to ensure a vehicle operating in electric mode is somehow disabled from motion ??? be it via ignition switch, gear selector, parking brake or physical obstruction.

Second would concern the high voltage battery systems these vehicles carry. Most current hybrid vehicles not only have the traditional 12-volt car battery we are all familiar with but contain a secondary sealed battery pack somewhere in the rear area of the vehicle that generates in the neighborhood of 300 volts direct current (DC). Automakers have adopted an industry standard of signifying high voltage wiring and connections by the use of the color orange. (Red is still the standard for the 12 volt system.)

Here is the release from Chevrolet and OnStar regarding first responder training currently being developed:

San Francisco ??? Chevrolet has joined with OnStar and leading national first-responder organizations to announce the first automotive manufacturer-sponsored training program to educate first responders nationwide on electric vehicle technology.

The announcement was jointly made today at the San Francisco Fire Department with leaders of Chevrolet, OnStar, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

???Technological changes in the automotive industry require changes in fire and emergency service operations as well,??? said Chief Jack Parow, first vice president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. ???The IAFC is proud to work with Chevrolet and OnStar to ensure that fire responders are adequately trained in how to work with the new technology, both for their own safety and the safety of those they serve.???

The training sessions will feature the Chevrolet Volt and will begin at the IAFC???s Fire-Rescue International Conference, Aug. 23-27 in Chicago. Together with OnStar, Chevrolet will also display the Volt at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials conference Aug. 1-4 in Houston, and at the NENA conference, June 5-10 in Indianapolis. Chevrolet and OnStar will host first-responder sessions in Volt retail markets later this year including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington, D.C.

???We believe a first-responder education program is very important to raise the awareness and understanding of electric vehicle technology,??? said Carmen Benavides, director, Chevrolet Safety. ???This is a natural extension of the collaborative efforts we???ve had in the past when introducing new safety and other leading technologies.???

During the past several months, Chevrolet has collaborated with first-responder representatives from national safety organizations to develop educational materials for firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical technicians and emergency dispatchers nationwide. This will help ensure the training meets the needs and answers the questions their colleagues are likely to have about electric vehicles.

Their feedback is being incorporated into training materials that will be available on the tour and posted on a targeted Web site for departments unable to attend the training sessions.

The training will include animation and illustrations of the Chevrolet Volt, highlighting locations of high-strength steel, cut points for extrication, first-responder labeling, automatic and manual electrical shut-off and more.

The Chevrolet Volt???s safety features include safeguards before, during and ??? thanks to OnStar — after a crash. Before a crash, the Volt???s safety technology includes standard anti-lock brakes with traction control, StabiliTrak electronic stability control and daytime running lamps. In the event of a crash, the Volt uses occupant protection features such as high-strength steel, crash sensors, eight standard air bags and safety belts with dual pretensioners to reduce the risk of injury. After a crash, the Chevrolet Volt has the added protection of OnStar, which uses built-in vehicle sensors to automatically alert an OnStar advisor in certain types of collisions. The advisor is immediately connected to the vehicle and can request that em
ergency help be sent to its location.

Chevrolet expects the Volt to achieve high safety ratings in government tests. More than 50 crash tests at various speeds and angles have been conducted in the development of the Chevrolet Volt to date, including front, side and rear impacts as well as rollovers. The Volt???s body structure is made up of nearly 80 percent high-strength steel and includes optimized restraint systems.

Chevrolet has been working to get the country ready for electric vehicles such as the Volt for the past several years. In the time since the Volt was announced as a production program in 2007, Chevrolet has joined with the Electric Power Research Institute and 10 major electric utilities across the country, collaborated with several local and state governments in key states, and met with city stakeholders in important markets to help ensure widespread consumer adoption of electric vehicles. The Chevrolet Volt will launch in select markets late this year.

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