Tesla has just released its manual for first responders, the people who are called upon to rescue passengers from a Model 3 or deal with a variety of safely hazards — from a battery fire to retrieving a submerged car safely. Like any electric car, the Tesla Model 3 has several high-voltage links that pose potential safety hazards to fire and rescue personnel. The first part of the new manual outlines where those wires are found within the structure of the car and how to avoid them.
As with the Tesla Model S and Model X, there is a “cut loop” inside the front cargo compartment. Severing the bright red cable will deactivate most high-voltage links within the car. There is another “cut loop” located in the right rear of the vehicle. Tesla warns repeatedly throughout the manual: “Regardless of the disabling procedure you use, ALWAYS ASSUME THAT ALL HIGH VOLTAGE COMPONENTS ARE ENERGIZED! Cutting, crushing, or touching high voltage components can result in serious injury or death.”
The manual for first responders also highlights those areas of the car that are made from high-strength steel — mostly in the passenger safety cell that protects occupants from injury in the event of a collision. These areas may require specialized hydraulic shears in order to cut and remove sections to gain access to those inside or extricate them from the vehicle.
Tesla cautions fire and rescue personnel to be aware of systems that might explode due to heat or intrusion from hydraulic shears, especially air bags, air suspension components, and seat belt pre-tensioners. The manual designates a number of “no cut zones” first responders should avoid in order to keep themselves safe. They are shown in the graphic below with pink shading around them.
People often worry about battery fires in electric cars. Tesla assures first responders that such events are rare, but does offer an extensive list of precautions. A hot battery can emit noxious fumes that are potentially hazardous to health, including “volatile organic compounds, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, soot, particulates containing oxides of nickel, aluminum, lithium, copper, cobalt, and hydrogen fluoride.”
It recommends using only water to extinguish a battery fire and says up to 3000 gallons may be required to adequately cool an overheated battery. It also cautions that it may take 24 hours for the battery to cool enough for safe handling. It recommends a vehicle not be released to second responders for at least one hour after all evidence of smoke or rapid heating has ceased.
No one ever expects to be in a serious collision, but Tesla takes the safety of first responders seriously. Its safety manual is clear and concise. It also offers a unique insight into how the Model 3 is put together and why it should do an excellent job of protecting its occupants from harm.
Source and graphic credits: Tesla