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Firefighters Get Crash Course on Hybrid Rescues

Posted on November 30, 2010
Filed Under General News | Leave a Comment

Hybrid-electric vehicles are showing up more often on the nation’s roads. And, in case of a crash, emergency workers first on the scene could face a new type of hazard.

When a firefighter uses the “Jaws of Life,” a car can be opened up like a tin can. Because hybrid cars have high voltage cables running through them, that could be dangerous for first responders at a crash scene.

An instructor at Mott Community Colleges automotive technology department is teaching firefighters how to safely handle those situations.

“The battery cable’s coming in from the side,” explained Matt Roda. “This is the stuff you don’t want to touch.”

Roda showed several Mid-Michigan firefighters how to disconnect the electric system on a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid.

“There’s one system for GM and a different system for Honda,” said one firefighter. “That’s where our worry is. We’re looking at things that are different with every single vehicle.”

They all have disconnects, but the location is going to be the issue. A hybrid can have as much as 300 volts of power. If a firefighter should cut the wrong cable, the result could be severe burns or even death.

By giving firefighters a primer on hybrid technology, Roda hopes to prevent injuries to firefighters and crash victims.

“These cars are safe,” Roda said. “They can extract occupants without putting themselves or occupants in danger with just a few precautions.”

Firefighters taking the class agree.

“We need to know how to disconnect the battery and make the patient safe and also our firefighters safe out there,” said Mt. Morris Assistant Fire Chief Damon Tobia.

It’s believed no firefighter has ever received an electric shock while rescuing a victim from a hybrid crash. Everyone wants to keep that record going.

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