Firefighters train for hazards with new technology

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – Local emergency workers are rewriting the rules on how they rescue you after a car crash. It's all because new technology that's designed to make your car safe and efficient is leaving obstacles for responders.

It seems like a constant battle for firefighters, a continual need to keep up with ever-changing technology and training. It's a bizarre thing to think about: the very technology used to keep you safe, could put those there to save you, in harm's way.

"Every time our bell goes off, some of our men and women are putting their lives in danger," said Lt. Jason Elmore with Chesterfield Fire and EMS. "So this is just something else we have to keep ourselves abreast of."

We took our news cars to Lt. Elmore to find out exactly where the hazards lie in popular cars like hybrids and SUVs.

What would happen, for example, if someone was pinned inside a Prius?

Elmore explained firefighters normally make a cut on the top of the car so they can peel back the roof, but if the battery is still energized they wouldn't be able to do that. High voltage wires go from the front to the back of the car.

In new training, firefighters have learned they'd have to take care of a few things first. Turn off the power button and disconnect the battery in the front, which in turn would start to de-energize this high voltage pack wired to the back. While that could take up to ten minutes, they'd look for other entry options.

"Maybe we have to cut through the front post and maybe we have to take the windshield out," Elmore showed us.

The pressurized side impact airbags now commonly found on SUVs also cause complications.

"We might be putting them in a position as we're trying to extricate them and that airbag deploys and then we're going to have a major problem, even more injury," he said.

Now the department disables the battery to cut power to the system and avoid discharge.

"We're here to help the citizen who has been involved in the accident but if we injure ourselves, we're not doing that patient any good," Elmore told us.

We checked in with Richmond Fire, as well. A spokesperson said the department is encountering similar obstacles in its calls and is examining what practical training on vehicles like these is necessary to keep you and first responders safe.

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