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L.A. County Fire Training Focuses on Electric Vehicle Safety [Video]

Firefighters from Malibu, Agoura and Calabasas trained on several types of hybrid and electric vehicles, which provide new and unique challenges to first responders.

Firefighters serving the cities of Agoura, Calabasas and Malibu trained Thursday on how to safely cut open electric and hybrid vehicles during rescues.

The training, which was organized by firefighting specialist Markus Voegler of Station 125 in Calabasas, featured a dozen cars from an array of manufacturers including Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Hyundai.

Dealerships from Calabasas and Thousand Oaks provided the cars so firefighters could “look at the components and get the lay of the land,” Voegler said.

Younger firefighters were also able to practice extrication techniques on a totaled vehicle at the station during the training.

With green vehicles like the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt growing in popularity, they present new and unique challenges to firefighters as they respond to crashes.

“Operationally we approach all the vehicles the same, but the main points on the hybrid and electric vehicles is they have electric power and it is quiet so the vehicles can move without any warning. We may think the vehicle is not turned on, but it is,” Voegler said.

Most firefighters are able to use a smartphone app that guides first responders on how to perform an extrication on a vehicle.

Voegler said having such a variety of vehicles at the fire station was valuable for firefighters to compare the app schematics to the cars. One wrong cut into a high voltage cable could mean electrocution.

"Because they have electric power they have high voltage systems and those high voltage systems are of great concern to us when we start cutting into cars and opening doors up with our jaws of life," Voegler said.

Most of the wiring goes through the center of the vehicle, but each one is designed differently, he said.

"By being able to see each car, and see how those systems are laid out in the vehicles, it kind of keeps us safer as the end result," Voegler said.

hellwood February 25, 2013 at 10:35 PM
That's right Paul...and current is what the rescuers experience when they cut those fat wires and become the path to ground. Although humans are good resistors, they break easily, and using nonhuman resistors might be a good idea if a simple impact triggered battery disconnect breaker isnt good enough
Hans Laetz February 25, 2013 at 10:35 PM
Good lord, an Ohm's Law lecture has broken out on Patch. Of course, the fire departments are worried about the high potential difference caused by electric vehicles. Those thick cables in a Prius are coated in yellow and marked DANGER DO NOT CUT OR PIERCE for a reason. The idea that large-potential batteries could be safely discharged in a crash is -- how should we put it without annoying Hellwood -- really stupid. First, not all pavement will ground electric current. In fact, pure asphalt is not conductive at all, and is often used as insulation around underground power supplies.  Rubberized asphalt is conductive, because ground up tires contain carbon black, which conducts electricity well. That is why the common belief that a vehicle is insulated by its tires is wrong. Tires conduct electricity! A vehicle, if it's insulated, is isolated by what the tires are parked on, not by the tires themselves.  Water and gas on a pavement, or even oil deposits, can suddenly complete a circuit with a spark.  My network spent a lot of time and trouble educating the staff after we lost a wonderful woman to electrocution. I was in charge of the training. Believe me, the last thing you want at a crash is electricity of any sort.
hellwood February 25, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Hans, If the chassis is ground, why reference earth? Leaning on the car while cutting the wires is what I was talking about
Hans Laetz February 26, 2013 at 12:31 AM
I think you need to call the fire department, Sparky, And tell them they are all wrong
Lori N. February 26, 2013 at 05:44 AM
Thanks Charles for letting us see hybrid cars.

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