Fire Prevention 52: Earth Day

By Brian Johnson, Nat'l Structural Fire Prevention Manager

Rising gas prices in the new millennium and a desire to decrease dependence on foreign oil fueled the hybrid and electric vehicle market in the United States.

In 1970, for the first Earth Day, we were at the height of hippie and flower child culture in the United States. Jimi Hendrix died that year, and the Beatles released their last album. There were frequent protest rallies and environmental awareness was increasing.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, began the dialogue in America, but until 1970 the protest generation was focused on the Vietnam War. Since that first Earth Day in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded; the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts passed; and the modern environmental movement was born.

small electrical vehicle being used in a park
Electric car at Redwood National and State Parks, fleet sizes have been reduced and conventional vehicles replaced with fuel/energy efficient models.

Fuel-Efficient Options and Risks

Rising gas prices in the new millennium and a desire to decrease dependence on foreign oil fueled the hybrid and electric vehicle market in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers.

But like their gasoline-fueled counterparts, electric cars and hybrids do pose unique risks. Owners, fleet managers, and emergency responders should be aware that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and NHTSA have published articles and guidelines that you should be aware of.

Fire Info for You

If you own an electric or hybrid vehicle, manage a fleet that has these vehicles, or respond to traffic accidents, you need to know what to do and more importantly what not to do to keep yourself safe. Read this article for more information.

Park Leadership
Are you doing enough in your park to promote the use of alternative fuels and electric and hybrid cars? Check out this article on NFPA for more information about what you can do.

Like all types of transportation, electric and hybrid vehicles pose certain dangers to their users and emergency responders. Have your first responders download a copy of this report on Fire Fighter Safety and Emergency Response for Electric Drive and Hybrid Electric Vehicles.

National Leadership
As our parks become greener and we increase the use of alternative-fuel, electric, and hybrid vehicles, ensure that our policies and training requirements for our emergency responders adequately address the risks.

Take Action

  1. Read the archived P52 on electrical fire safety. Electric cars must have a power source from which to charge. Like any electrical appliance, there is an inherent fire hazard.
  2. Chief rangers: Take a moment to look at some of the documents that are linked to that P52. Work with staff to develop an awareness briefing on the dangers associated with electric and hybrid vehicles.

NPS Fire Facts

The United States Park Police uses hybrid vehicles for patrol and administrative purposes. Read story (internal link).

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve uses two completely electric cars. Read more at Inside NPS (internal link).

Last updated: October 20, 2016