Hybrid Car Myths Debunked At Conference

Updated: 06-05-2006 03:24:30 PM

The Canadian Press

EDMONTON - Emergency workers attending a weekend conference on car crashes were told the notion they can be electrocuted by hybrid cars is just an urban myth.

Cris Turley, a paramedic and volunteer firefighter in Viking, Alta., said he was initially trained to use rubber lineman gloves during such rescues because hybrid cars, which run on both gas and electricity, can pack up to 500 volts on top of the normal 12-volt battery used in regular cars.

''The rumors were that you could have burns from battery acid, electrocution and fires,'' Turley said. ''We were apprehensive about coming across hybrid cars without knowing how they worked. It's a pretty fail-safe system, we know now. If you breach any of the wires, it shorts out.''

Nearly 300 people from across the country attended Crash Canada 2006, a safety conference aimed at fire and ambulance crews and sponsored by Edmonton's Grant MacEwan College.

''Being a volunteer firefighter for the past 25 years in Viking, I've always had the wonderment about new vehicle technology and how it's changing,'' said Mike Hoffman, the college's team leader of first aid and life-support training.

''I know a lot of rural departments who go out to an extrication had never come across some of these newer vehicles.''

Inside the Northlands Agricom, demonstrations used overturned and damaged cars, semi-tractor units and buses. Emergency crews learned how to safely perform bus, motor coach and semi-trailer rescues and how to properly use hand-held tools and hydraulic tools such as the Jaws of Life.

Crashes that involve buses or semi-trailer units present unique challenges, such as height issues and potential mass injuries, said Strathcona County emergency services Capt. Bruce Patterson.

It's a worry Wayne Pierson is familiar with. Edmonton's loss prevention manager for Diversified Transportation rushed to the horrific bus crash near Gibbons, Alta., last year that killed six men and sent 25 to hospital.

Around 1 a.m. on May 20, 2005, a semi-trailer slammed into a bus stranded sideways on Highway 28. The bus was carrying 43 oilsands workers from Fort McMurray to Edmonton.

''This one here was like a war zone,'' Pierson told emergency workers being briefed about bus rescues. ''It was just horrible.''

(Edmonton Journal)