Here’s the story of how Crash Course started.
“He is so drunk he says the phone is the key!” said the Atlantic City police officer to his co-worker, a Tesla owner, whom he had called to find out how to get the stopped Tesla off the roadway after arresting the incapacitated driver. Omar Martin, the Tesla owning police officer who was called for assistance, recounted that story to club president Vivianna Van Deerlin over lunch one day in the summer of 2019 as Model 3s, with the new feature “Phone Key,” were slowly becoming more prevalent on the streets. Vivianna had been organizing new owner Boot Camps with Cherry Hill Tesla, but upon hearing the story she realized that not only did new owners need education, first responders did too! To fully realize Tesla’s mission of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy and transportation all sectors of community need to be informed and prepared.
From the start, Michael Stanzione, then a technician at Cherry Hill Tesla who had been helping Vivianna and then Tesla advisor Justin Burns with the new owner Boot Camps, was on board with helping develop and providing technical support for the program, as he too recognized the need for and importance of what we were doing for the community. Importantly, Michael, who is currently the Lead Technician at Tesla Wilmington in Delaware, was doing this of his own volition and on his own time, not on behalf of Tesla.
On August 7th, 2019, exactly 4 years ago, the first Tesla workshop for First Responders was held at the Atlantic City Police Department. This first workshop was focused on things the police might need to know, but not too long afterwards we were invited to present at the Hamilton NJ Fire Station by someone who had heard about the AC Police workshop, so we added content relevant to firefighters and extrication and that is when “Tesla Crash Course” was born. However, the Crash Course content and workshop structure has continued to evolve and be refined over time by Vivianna and Michael with the experience gained from presenting many workshops all over the state of NJ and recently the first one in Delaware. With the growth of Tesla vehicles on the road, the need and interest in Crash Course from first responder organizations all over our region has increased significantly – all by word of mouth from attendees of previous workshops (firefighters, police, and emergency medical technicians) who praised the content and experience.
Tesla Crash Course starts with a slide presentation in a classroom or auditorium. Topics we cover inclide: how to identify and operate a Tesla, information about relevant security features such as Sentry and Dog Mode, a description of the high voltage (HV) components and how to disable the HV battery. Also covered are methods for occupant access and the importance of the 12-volt battery. Firefighting recommendations for Li-ion battery fires are discussed as are approaches for stabilization and extrication, how to hand-off to 2nd responders, topics related to storage and tow/transport, and charging products and situations.
After the presentation, the attendees are given first-hand exposure to the Tesla vehicles of club members who sign up to participate in each workshop. We aim to have at least two of each Tesla S3XY model present. The first responders get to see how to operate a Tesla as well as how various components work and where they are found in all models. The frunk buckets and back seats of some vehicles are removed so they can see where important structures are located.
This hands-on exposure to Tesla vehicles is critical to help reinforce what they learn in the presentation. That is why we invite our members, like you, to participate by bringing your Tesla to each Crash Course we present. The size of the workshops range from about 40 to 150 first responders and the larger the workshop, the more cars we need for the hands-on portion. It is important for everyone’s safety – Tesla owners and first responders alike – for first responders to know how to handle a Tesla in an emergency. Service to our community is a part of DVTOC's mission and that is why those of us in the club that devote a lot of time to the success of Crash Course do what we do. We see first-hand its value to the community and are driven by the positive feedback we receive from attendees about the importance of what they learned. And sometimes the first responders’ questions are about Tesla/EV ownership and driving, and that is great too!
We hope that the importance of the program is reason enough to participate, but to add a little incentive for volunteering, all participants in Crash Course receive two free months as a paid club member at their current tier. Free tier members get two months of Standard membership. In addition, we usually all go out for a meal together after the workshop paid for by the club. Participants also learn a great deal about their own cars from the experience and get to keep a 11x17 laminated emergency response guide for their model. And honestly, it is just a fun and amazing experience to be part of such a unique and impactful program.
We hope to see you at an upcoming Crash Course. Check our event calendar.
Want to host a Tesla Crash Course in your town? Suggest it to your fire station. They can apply to host a Crash Course by filling out this application.