Vehicle Fire Warning Signs
The first thing all of your drivers should know if the warning signs of danger. Your vehicles may start showing signs before the fire actually ignites. If they notice any oil or fluid on the ground or electrical problems like loose wiring or a blown fuse, it is important to have these problems checked out immediately. Make sure your oil cap is on securely at all times and there isn’t a rapid change in fuel or fluid levels or in the engine temperature itself. Having your vehicles inspected regularly can help protect your investment as well as your employees. Train your employees to inspect their vehicle before getting in and teach them what they are looking for.
It is important for your employees to know how to prevent a fire as well as what to do when the vehicle is actually on fire. If your vehicle starts to smoke, pull over as quickly as it is safe to do so. Once you have stopped, turn off the engine and get everyone out of the vehicle. Stay at least 100 feet away from the burning vehicle but also away from traffic. Call the authorities as soon as you see flames or sparks. Do not go back to the vehicle for your property or load.
Every vehicle in your fleet should have several pieces of fire safety equipment on board. They should all be easily accessible by the driver and any passengers in the vehicle. You should have a fire extinguisher or suppression system, a warning device for stopped vehicles like road flares, red flags, or emergency roadside triangle reflectors. These pieces of equipment are invaluable in an emergency. Your fire extinguisher should be filled with an extinguishing agent that does not freeze and complies with the toxicity provisions set by the Environmental Protection Agency. It should be clearly marked or labeled with the manufacturer’s instructions.
What you should do in a car fire
The first response to a suspected car fire is to pull over, immediately. Fire feeds off oxygen and even slow forward motion will force air into the engine compartment, basically stoking the fire. Exploding cars are generally the stuff of crime dramas, but it’s still best to stop in an area away from buildings and people, if you have that option. Burning plastics and other materials can produce toxic gases – maybe not as visually exciting as an explosion, but best not to expose yourself or bystanders.
Next, get yourself and passengers out of the car. However, the following recommendations about trying to put out the fire may seem contradictory, and what you do is dependent on the availability of a car fire extinguisher, your ability to use it and your knowledge of auto mechanics.
From personal experience, the two times smoke billowed around my engine compartment, I was fairly sure there was no corresponding fire. One was a broken fan belt, the major clues being a voltage gauge that had flatlined and a temperature gauge that headed toward the danger zone. The other was a little bit of smoke accompanied by a scary reading on the oil gauge (a gas station attendant hadn’t replaced the oil reservoir cap after topping it off). I didn’t call 911; I called for a tow. If you’re not sure what’s going on, call 911. Better safe and embarrassed than very, very sorry.