I recently started a new project called Beyond Preparedness. My goal with the project is to get people (especially “preppers” who tend to come from the political right) to understand that safety and preparedness goes far beyond just having the right toys and some limited training on fighting and maybe first aid. (If you love my articles here, don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere or even slowing down)
As you can probably guess, there’s a lot of skepticism in the prepper community of clean technologies. Traditionalism and fear of trying new things leads people to cling onto old technologies that they feel will be there for them in the future. But, today there are better alternatives, like solar generators instead of gas-powered ones (I went in depth about why solar is generally better in this article series).
Some of our readers here have figured out the value of clean technologies (that’s why they’re readers now), but I wanted to give those readers some articles they can share with their skeptical friends about how clean technologies are actually great for overall safety, including preparedness for emergencies. To do that, I’ll first need to introduce some basic emergency management ideas on how we can well, manage emergencies.
It turns out that EVs check almost all of those boxes for a very common emergency: accidental injury. Plus, EVs help with other emergencies that are less common.
The Emergency Management Cycle
While there are different versions of this, I’m going to rely on a modified version of FEMA’s mission areas for its National Preparedness Goal. The key things anyone needs to focus on for emergencies are the following areas:
- Prevention – Keeping emergencies from happening at all
- Mitigation – Lessening the consequences of those things you can’t prevent
- Preparedness – Being ready for the remaining consequences you couldn’t prevent or mitigate
- Response – The phase after an emergency
- Recovery – Bringing things not only back to normal, but hopefully better prepared for the next emergency
The city of Saint Louis has a great summary with a graphic here.
In the rest of this article series, I’m going to describe how EVs help an individual, a family, or a business take care of each of these phases.
People familiar with modern connected EVs are probably already guessing how an EV fits into prevention of accidents, but we should still go through it because it helps us be ready for other phases. I’m not going to discuss things like Tesla’s FSD Beta because that’s not complete yet and the safety issues of testing in-development software on the roads are a whole other can of worms.
I’m not going to get into SAE Levels of Autonomy®™© because they’re not terribly useful, and SAE is very particular about how we refer to its concepts. As far as I’m concerned, they can keep their levels because the only important thing in autonomy is whether the driver or the vehicle manufacturer takes liability. If you’re liable for the vehicle’s actions, the vehicle is not autonomous in any way. If a wreck is wholly on whoever built the system, it’s autonomous. Everything else is marketing fluff and details that don’t really matter to the driver or their family.
There are no vehicles currently on the market for an individual or small business to buy that assumes liability, so autonomy is not a topic that’s currently relevant to managing emergencies. The biggest thing currently going for individuals, families, and small businesses is currently driver assist systems
With assist systems, many accidents can be prevented. For example, lane departure warning will beep at you when you depart your lane without a turn signal, and lane keeping assist will actively push you back into the lane by giving the steering wheel a “bump.” With these systems, you can prevent accidents entirely.
Another example is automotive emergency braking. When the car figures you’re going to crash into something (using cameras and/or radar to determine this), the system can hit the brakes and stop you from crashing. Or, it could at least slow you down enough to lessen the damage (more on that below).
These systems do two great things for you. First, they augment your situational awareness (a big thing in preparedness). Second, they help you make split-second decisions, or what one expert calls “high risk, low frequency, no discretionary time” events, where there’s something really bad coming without time to think it through. But, there is still time for a computer to think it through.
No matter how good computers get at helping us drive or maybe eventually doing all of the driving, there’s no way to completely prevent all accidents. So, we must continue to mitigate the consequences of those remaining accidents, and make it so people don’t get hurt or killed as often.
One way automotive manufacturers have been doing this for decades is through crash safety testing and development. Crumple zones, seat belts, soft dashboards, air bags, and many other systems are designed to mitigate crashes and save lives. The history of these technologies hasn’t always been perfect (first generation air bags were more dangerous for women, for example), but improvements have been made.
EVs make this even better in two ways: First, they help just by being heavy. Heavier vehicles take less damage in crashes. Second, the increased design flexibility (from not having to incorporate a bulky internal combustion engine into the car or truck’s design) allows for even greater crash safety.
Also, automatic emergency braking helps mitigate crashes that it can’t prevent. Reducing the energy that’s involved in a crash, even if the crash isn’t avoided, helps keep people safer. Slowing the car down, even a little, means less kinetic energy to hurt people and property.
Between prevention and mitigation, much of the death that has been plaguing global roadways is already solved before we even get to being prepared for an emergency. So, already we can see the value of adding these additional steps before even getting to preparedness.
In Part 2, I’m going to finish the cycle by discussing preparedness, response, and recovery.
Featured image by Nissan.
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