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Electric Vehicles Mean New Training For First Responders

Sept. 23, 2011 | Northwest News Network
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Chris Lehman


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  • Matt Paiss (right) of the National Fire Protection Association demonstrates the features of a Chevy Volt to a group of first responders in Salem. credit: Chris Lehman
Matt Paiss (right) of the National Fire Protection Association demonstrates the features of a Chevy Volt to a group of first responders in Salem. | credit: Chris Lehman | rollover image for more

SALEM, Ore. - A car wreck that involves an electric vehicle or a hybrid can pose grave risks to emergency personnel. A group of first responders in Oregon got a training session Thursday on how to handle a high-wattage accident.

It’s no surprise that an electric car might have more electricity pulsating through it than a regular car. So, how much power does it take?

Okay, not as much as the 1.21 gigawatts from the time-traveling DeLorean in Back to the Future. But Matt Paiss of the National Fire Protection Association says an electric car can pack quite the punch.

“Traditional vehicles operate at 12 volts,” he says. “These have a high-voltage battery pack that can be upwards of 400 volts DC.”

Paiss is traveling the nation, training police and fire fighters how to maneuver around these newfangled electric cars.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and answers questions like this: If you’re cutting open a high voltage vehicle to remove an accident victim, what do you need to avoid to not get electrocuted? How do you even turn the vehicle off?

Paiss says that’s a very important piece of knowledge.

“Probably the biggest hazard is that the vehicles can move silently. They can be on, and not hearing an engine running.”

About 40 Oregon first responders took part in this training session in Salem.

John Brown with the Crescent Fire District in central Oregon checks out a brand new Chevy Volt, which runs 35 miles on a battery before switching to a traditional gas engine.

“Nice vehicle. Creates headaches for us.”

For now, if Brown does respond to an accident involving a Chevy Volt, it would be, well, a shock. The dealership that loaned this car for the training session says after a month on the lot, it has yet to sell a single one.

(This was first reported for the Northwest News Network.)

© 2011 Northwest News Network
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