North east firefighters are the first from the region's emergency services to benefit from a new Gateshead College course which equips people with the specialised skills required to deal with accident damaged or broken down electric and hybrid vehicles.

Officers from Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Cleveland fire and rescue services completed the specialist training at the college's AutoSkills Centre on the Team Valley to become the first to gain a Level 2 BTEC in Hazard Management of Vehicles with Electric Drive Systems.

The move comes as the college will be attending the Emergency Services Show in Coventry for the first time where it will showcasing the work it undertakes for the emergency services.

The course − the first of its type in the UK − has equipped them with the expertise needed to recognise an electric or hybrid vehicle and assess it for damage before being able to make it safe to recover the passengers. They also learnt how to deal with dangerous battery and hazardous chemical spills caused by a vehicle smash or break down.

Further courses will see training for other fire services as well as Northumbria Police, whose officers are often the first on the scene of an accident and might have to make safe a vehicle to gain access to injured passengers.

The college has made the move following the growing number of electric vehicles on UK roads and the need to ensure front line emergency services are properly trained to deal with the potential hazards caused by electric drive systems. It is estimated that there will be 300,000 electric vehicles on Britain's roads by 2014 according to a recent Gfk Automotive report as consumers look for more 'greener' ways to travel.

The course has been designed by college development manager John Davies, who said that mishandling electric drive systems can be dangerous, leading to the possibility of a life threatening electric shock. "The emergency services are the first on scene at an accident but because there's been a lack of training in this area and no-one really knows what to do, many officers lack the skills and know-how to make an electric or hybrid vehicle safe.

"Equally, those involved in the vehicle recovery and repair sector need to be up to speed with the latest electric vehicle training to ensure they are fully prepared for what's involved and work in a safe environment.

"Our expertise in designing and delivering electric and hybrid vehicle courses has allowed us to develop this new course which meets a specific skills requirement. We can give the emergency services and others the training, knowledge and confidence to manage hazards more safely and ensure recovery and repair work can be completed to the highest standards."

Steve Wight and Andy Pogson, training officers from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service were among those to complete the first course.

They said: "We need to ensure our officers are properly trained to deal with electric and hybrid vehicle incidents, so a dedicated course like this is extremely beneficial. The skills we learnt will be invaluable in helping to improve officers' abilities to deal quickly with road traffic accidents while ensuring they're working smarter and safer."

The Hazard Management of Vehicles with Electric Drive Systems is one of a range of electric and hybrid vehicle courses available at the AutoSkills Centre and covers vehicle identification, the component make-up of electric vehicles and hybrid systems, safe isolation of vehicles, and the safe storage and handling of batteries. It also teaches aspects of working with faulty or damaged vehicles, and how to deal with the different hazards these vehicles may present.

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Photo: Tyne and Wear Fire and rescue officers Eddie Cooper and Dave Smith are among the first firefighters to acquire new skills from Gateshead College for dealing with damaged or broken down electric and hybrid vehicles


Posted November 21st, 2011 at 1535 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: