Knoxville area rescue crews learn how to safely deal with hybrids in wrecks

6:42 PM, Aug 3, 2011   |    comments
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As gas prices climb, hybrid vehicles continue to gain traction on East Tennessee roadways.  But when the cars themselves slip and a driver is involved in an accident, the way emergency crews approach to the rescue can different from how they'd tackle a wreck involving a traditional gas-only automobile.

"Don't be afraid of them.  Absolutely embrace the technology, they are more reliable today than they have ever been in the past," Duane Throckmorton, a hybrid safety trainer as part of NAPA's Training Division said.

As the first to the scene, emergency responders like Captain Robby Copas are pulling up on wrecks and finding more and more, one of the cars involved is a hybrid.

"It's just something, a few extra things to think about.  I won't say added hazards but it gives us things to think about," Copas said.

Those extra things include high voltage electrical lines that run through the vehicle and could spell trouble for responders if they have to pull someone out of the car.

"The worst case is you could die," Throckmorton said.  "But again, that's a bazillion to one shot."

Wednesday morning, Knoxville's Fire Department hosted several other agencies for a joint training session on how to safely shut down the hybrid's electrical system and get the driver or passenger out of a wrecked vehicle.

"This is so needed.  We are busier now than we've ever been in the past.  We just keep growing and growing and growing because technology is changing so much," Throckmorton said.

Each manufacturer is different, with Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota just a few of the car companies with the technology.  Making matters more complicated, the internal components vary from hybrids like the Chevy Malibu to the lithium ion battery powered cars like the Chevy Volt.

"Technology is the difference between night and day, it's really a huge difference," Throckmorton said.

It's four hour training sessions like Wednesday that keep those arriving to help confident in their own knowledge, knowing they can keep themselves safe while getting East Tennessee drivers to help as fast as possible.

"It takes continual training, which we do every day anyway and it's just something we have to keep up with," Copas said.


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