A case study exploring firefighters’ and municipal officials’ preparedness for electrical vehicles

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Purpose: This study presents a social perspective on new vehicle technology. It explores the self-reported preparedness of the fire departments (i.e., rescue services) in Sweden’s three largest cities regarding rescue operations involving electrical vehicles (EVs).

Methods: In this multi-method study, in-depth interviews were performed with emergency service officers and municipal officers in each city.

Results: The results indicate that firefighters have little experience of accidents with EVs and they are learning reactively. The risks were not clearly identified. More knowledge is needed of identifying and disconnecting electricity in EVs. A more efficient way to find information about new vehicles is vital concerning the safety aspect in rescue operations. The level of knowledge about new vehicle technology varied between departments. For the municipal officers, environmental aspects are of most interest, whereas safety and rescue operations involving EVs are rarely addressed. The responsibility for disseminating information about the safe handling of EVs was unclear.

Conclusion: The fire departments need more resources for education and training to keep up with technical developments and to be proactive. Another desired development is a solution for easy access to vehicle information. Since the environmental issues are setting the agenda, not the safety issues, lesser environment risks could become greater safety risks. We stress the need for various occupational decision making at all levels of society to cooperate in order to take responsibility for the safe introduction for new more environmentally friendly transport vehicle technique and disseminating safety information in a collected and systematic way.

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