Cars safer for passengers, not first responders

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Cars designed to keep consumers safer with new technology and better fuel economy present new challenges for the rescuers who respond to automobile accidents.

Jonesboro Fire Department Assistant Chief Alan Dunn said his firefighters have not worked many accidents involving hybrid and electric cars, but in the past several years the department has incorporated training specifically for the new breed of vehicles.


"Fortunately here in Jonesboro we haven't had to deal with it too much," he said. "There's certain things about hybrids that we're on the alert for, and that's there's an orange cable that runs through it that's shielded, and we know we can't cut that."


For example, a 2012 Chevy Volt is completely electric and has a keyless ignition, two features that can make it difficult to know whether the car is on. Car salesman George Morris says one way car makers combat the potential risk is by putting safety instructions for rescue workers in the console and under the hood.


"You don't want to grab a hold of the high voltage system in the hybrid or in the electric car. It has to be properly disabled in order for the responder to safely perform their task."


Another feature Assistant Chief Dunn said not just hybrids, but most newer model cars have lighter, stronger steel that forms a safety cage around everyone in the car.


"A couple years ago we purchased some high capacity or stronger cutters to be able to cut some of the steels that we deal with," Dunn said. "The different cutters that we bought can cut in excess of 200,000 pounds of pressure."


"Because of the new technology you need to be aware for the safety of the victims in the vehicle and for their own safety as well," Morris said.

Morris and Assistant Chief Dunn both said after electric cars are turned off, emergency workers can treat them as they would fuel engine cars.

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