(TNS) – When a car accident occurs, large or small, with or without injuries, multiple people and authorities may be required to take care of everything from rerouting traffic to treating the injured to removal of chaos.
In a perfect world, the answers are well-trained professionals who know how to deal with situations like chemical leakage from vehicles and damaged vehicles that need to be towed. According to the Beer & Wrecker Officer of the Chattanooga Police Department John Collins, the lithium-ion batteries in electric cars have created a new hazard potential that the police, fire brigade and towing and towing services are only now grappling with.
“This is something completely new that I didn’t even know about a month ago,” Collins told the Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board during its July 1 meeting. His comments came at the end of the meeting as part of an early, informal discussion about a possible update to the city’s Pest Regulation and Pest Violation Policy.
Batteries can get wet and explode or catch fire if damaged, and if they do, the fumes can be extremely dangerous. Traditional lead-acid batteries can and often are recycled, but the lithium-ion versions do not.
They are bigger and heavier than normal cars and consist of several hundred individual lithium-ion cells, all of which have to be dismantled. They also contain dangerous substances and can explode if incorrectly dismantled.
Some towing companies and junkyards are unaware of the problem.
“We didn’t tow electric cars,” said Brad Parker of Parker Auto Sales & Towing on Ringgold Road, “and I’m not aware of that.”
Chattanooga has contracts with approximately 30 companies paid by the city to collect abandoned, destroyed, or non-working vehicles on city, state, or federal highways within the city. These are towed to one of 35 yards owned by the towing companies. If an electric vehicle’s battery or battery compartment is damaged, it can explode if wet or catch fire, producing a dangerous gas.
Chattanooga Fire Department spokeswoman Lindsey Rogers said the department was deeply concerned.
“There are unique hazards associated with these types of vehicles,” she said in a written statement. “It is worrying if the battery compartment catches fire as it can generate dangerous fumes. We want our firefighters to know what precautions must be taken to protect the public and first aiders. “
According to Rogers, not only are leaking fumes dangerous, putting out an electric car fire also requires a lot of resources.
“For example, a Tesla fire in Texas took more than 30,000 liters of water in four hours to extinguish because of the heat the fire generated,” she said. “That’s 15 tankers. A typical car fire takes around 30 minutes and around 500-1,000 liters of water.
“When they arrive at the junkyard, electric cars can still be dangerous after the accident.
She said the issue is being addressed nationwide and “the Chattanooga Fire Department stands ready to take on the challenge as this type of technology evolves. We will respond and do our best to mitigate any emergency.”
“These vehicles are safe, but if there is an incident they will have to be handled differently because of the materials used,” said Captain Robert Thompson of the Fire Department’s Special Operations Division. “We are currently working with the city, county, and state forces on this issue to ensure a timely and safe response.”
Rogers also said that while the fire department has not responded to EV incidents, they have conducted and will continue to provide training on how to respond to car accidents and car fires in which they are involved.
“We know it’s not when, it’s when,” she said.
© 2021 Chattanooga Times / Free Press, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.