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EDM Monday Briefing: Studies Expose Battery Risks for First Responders

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for April 19, 2021: Studies expose high-voltage car battery risks for first responders; the global wind industry will produce even larger wind turbines without an environmentally favorable future disposal method; Mendocino County sees an early start to its wildfire season with the Turnout Fire; 11 people are dead and nearly 100 injured after a train derailed in Egypt; PG&E is expanding its notification options for its PSPS; a security breach reportedly went undetected for months at software code testing company Codecov; a Royal Caribbean cruise ship evacuated visitors and brought much-needed relief supplies to St. Vincent amid the ongoing eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano; and the Coast Guard has recovered two more bodies from the capsized Seacor Power lift boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

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1. A Tesla Model S crashed near Houston, Texas, and the electric vehicle caught fire and burned for four hours. The fire kept reigniting, and the fire department used 32,000 gallons of water in an effort to extinguish the fire. The high-voltage batteries are a known safety risk, and the U.S. Fire Administration issued guidance for first responders after studies completed cited three issues: thermal runaway, stranded energy, and battery reignition. Storage of the damaged vehicle is also an issue due to the high potential for fire from battery reignition.

2. The global wind industry is growing rapidly, quadrupling over the last decade, and so are the size of wind turbines. The turbines will be larger, will have longer blades of about 300 meters, and will be taller than previous models, which will allow them to harness both low-speed and high-speed winds. The larger turbines pose logistical issues when they are moved to a location, however. It is unknown how the massive blades and turbines will be disposed of when they have reached their life limit, which is about 25 years.

3. The first major wildfire of the 2021 season is burning in Mendocino County, California. Currently, the Turnout Fire, which began amid warm coastal winds and extremely low relative humidity, poses no threat to any towns or residences. The fire began on April 18 and according to CalFire, quickly expanded to 50 acres and is 0% contained.

4. A passenger train derailed in Banha, Egypt, about 25 miles north of Cairo on Sunday. At least 11 people were killed and almost 100 were injured when multiple carriages derailed. Egyptian authorities said the cause of the derailment is unknown, but it is the fourth train accident so far this month.

5. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is expanding its notification options ahead of its Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) for the 2021 wildfire season. Until now, residents were only able to receive a notification for their home address account on file, with no option to be notified of PSPS at other locations. PG&E now has an option to input different addresses, which will send a notification via voice or text alert when dangerous weather threatens to cause a PSPS.

6. A security breach reportedly went undetected for nearly four months at Codecov, a firm that tests software code. The company confirmed the breach, noting that it affected the Bash Uploader script, which was modified without the knowledge or permission of the company. The initial hack occurred on January 31. According to the company, periodic alterations of the Bash Uploader script occurred until the breach was detected at the beginning of April.

7. A Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Reflection, arrived in St. Vincent to evacuate British, Canadian and U.S. nationals to St. Maarten on Saturday amid the ongoing eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano. The cruise ship also brought much-needed emergency supplies, including bottled water, since the ash has contaminated local water supplies across the island. The latest eruption occurred on Friday and spewed ash and toxic gas emissions nearly 26,000 feet into the air.

8. The Coast Guard has recovered two more bodies from the capsized commercial ship, the 129-foot Seacor Power. The ship capsized on Tuesday morning and and trapped 19 people underwater, although six crew members were later rescued from the water. The lift boat was en route to deliver equipment to an oil platform off the coast of Louisiana when a violent storm produced tropical-storm force winds and waves that were suddenly higher, causing the ship to capsize.


Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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