Training Teaches Dangers of New Car Technologies

Updated: 12-10-2007 04:55:45 PM

The York Dispatch (Pennsylvania)

With a body made entirely of carbon fiber that is lighter than fiberglass and stronger than steel, how could a new, higher mileage Corvette possibly be a bad thing?

When a firefighter who shows up on the scene of a crash and touches the broken material gets a severe skin rash that hospital staff have to scrub out of the skin with a stiff brush.

Carl Avery, program coordinator at York County Fire School, seems to get queasy just thinking about it.

The new Corvette -- along with hybrid cars and cars with alternative construction materials -- is one of several automotive advances that could harm emergency workers who respond to car accidents.

With gasoline prices soaring, more and more of the vehicles are around.

So about 50 York County firefighters turned out for a North York training session Sunday to teach emergency responders how to safely work with new technologies.

Turn it off: Rescue educator Dave Dalrymple taught firefighters about safety practices on a variety of subjects, from hydrogen-powered cars and air bags to new motorist extrication methods.

The program, held at York County Fire Station No. 25, was a cooperative effort between York County Fire School, Manchester Township Department of Fire Services, Springettsbury Township Fire Department, Spring Garden Township Fire Department and North York Borough.

The York Water Co. lent the firefighters one of its hybrid gasoline/electric vehicles for a demonstration.

When the vehicle reaches its operating temperature, the gasoline engine shuts down.

"You would not even know the car is running because it's silent," Avery said.

Firefighters have to be aware of such vehicles -- and turn them off before they begin a rescue -- because they carry extremely high voltages, he said.

An electric car's power system can require 140 to 700 volts. The normal voltage level for a house is 120, he said.

Avery said no firefighters (that he's aware of) have had encounters with the new technologies; the idea behind the training is to allow firefighters to be proactive instead of reactive and avoid getting hurt.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436 or ckauffman@york