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Chevy, OnStar sponsor EV rescue classes

National rescue organizations partnering with automaker on rescue training specific to electric vehicles.

A rescue worker practices where to cut on a Chevy Volt chassis should someone need to be extricated from the vehicle post-crash. General Motors

Chevrolet and OnStar are sponsoring a series of training courses for first responders across the U.S. specifically geared toward electric-vehicle crash rescues.

The training has the endorsement of a myriad of rescue organizations including the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), according to a joint statement from all parties involved.

Sessions will be held in 2010 in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., as well as at leading rescue and first-responder conferences throughout the year.

In conjunction with the rescue organizations, Chevy developed a curriculum complete with educational handbooks that can be shared online with specific departments unable to attend courses. It's specifically intended for firefighters, EMTs, emergency dispatchers, and law enforcement officials.

While the Chevy Volt electric vehicle will be used in the training sessions, the training will apply to all electric vehicles and is not Chevy specific, according to Chevy.

"The training will include animation and illustrations of the Chevy Volt, highlighting locations of high-strength steel, cut points for extrication, first-responder labeling, automatic and manual electrical shut-off and more," Chevy said in a statement.

Unique to the Chevy Volt and other cars using OnStar is that in the event of a significant crash, sensors in the car automatically notify OnStar, and an OnStar operator calls the vehicle to see if those in the car need rescue. The OnStar rep can then contact local first responders, eliminating the need for those in the car, or those who witness the crash, to call 911 in an effort to cut down on that initial post-crash lag time.

Chevy is clearly sponsoring the program as part of an effort to promote the release of its Chevy Volt, an all-electric vehicle that will get the equivalent of arguably 230 mpg. But it's not the first to offer rescue training for alternative-fuel vehicles. Several organizations, albeit on a small scale, have been offering rescue workers training options as the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has been offering grants for just such programs.

The Michigan Fire Service, for example, offered a course in October in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the specifics of hybrid electric-vehicle rescue that included how to properly perform high-voltage disconnects if necessary after a crash. It was sponsored by an ETA grant.