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Electric, hybrid car fires pose new challenges for firefighters

firefightersThe National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is hailing a decision by Massachusetts to offer drivers of electric and hybrid vehicles special license plates, to easily identify them to first responders.The move comes after NFPA conducted training for first responders in Massachusetts in July 2011.

“This is an important step in the effort to protect first responders and the public,” said James M. Shannon, NFPA president. “If a first responder can easily identify the vehicle as an electric or hybrid vehicle, they immediately will have an extra level of necessary information that can enhance safety.”

Massachusetts is the second state in the nation, behind Hawaii, to offer specialized license plates as an option to electric and hybrid vehicle drivers. Owners of any of the 30 vehicles considered electric or hybrid in nature by Massachusetts Registry of Motor may swap their license plate for the new plate, for a small fee.

The NFPA says the move aligns Massachusetts with the goals with the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Electric Vehicle Safety Project.

Since the launch of its Electric Vehicle Safety Project, NFPA has collaborated with top safety experts and automobile manufacturers to provide a comprehensive curriculum of up-to-date information on the topic. The course, which has been delivered to first responders at fire academies across the country — including the state of Massachusetts — is also being customized by NFPA for law enforcement, providing information on how to most effectively deal with emergency situations involving hybrid, electric and extended range vehicles.

The NFPA course offers subject matter experts with knowledge on topics specific to electric vehicles such as disabling procedures, extrication processes, risk of electric shock, handling new types of batteries, challenges presented by charging stations, as well as towing and storage guidelines.

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