Rescue Workers Learn Dangers Of Hybrid Cars

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

June 17, 2005

With gasoline prices at record highs, its no wonder many Americans are getting serious about fuel efficient Hybrids. EMS workers also want people to get serious about the risks.

While consumers shopping for a hybrid car are seeing shocking prices, rescue workers are learning lifesaving techniques to avoid being shocked themselves.

2005, "the Year of the Hybrid," as five of the top car manufacturers offer models from compact and sedans to SUVs. While the cars, which are selling like hotcakes, cross gasoline and electric power to save money on gas, they can pose a serious challenge in an accident.

"For the emergency responder, the big issue is a vehicle that has in one certain area some real high voltage," explained Ron Brown, member of the Charlottesville Fire Department.

The electrical lines in hybrids can carry anywhere from 144 to 650 volts of power. Rescue workers trying to save someone else's life could easily lose their own by cutting into these lines. Responders in our area took part in a forum to learn about the potential dangers of hybrids.

"[We learned about disabling] hybrid vehicles. We had many questions posed in regards to safety of all of us, and the victims in the car," said Captain James Rowse, with the Seminole Trail Fire Department.

The interactive forum designed by State Farm Insurance is being conducted nationwide to help educate those we rely on during an emergency.

"We work with the manufacturers on car safety, and we know a part of that is providing safety for the people in the cars," said Greg Brown, of State Farm Insurance. "We wanted to extend that to the people that respond to those accidents."

The session held in Charlottesville showed rescue workers how to properly identify and power down a hybrid.

The majority of rescue workers in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region today took part in the meeting, and became certified to keep everyone including themselves safe. Other insurance agencies have similar programs that they are working on as well.

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