Firefighters serving the cities of Agoura, Calabasas and Malibu trained Thursday on how to safely cut open electric and hybrid vehicles during rescues.
The training, which was organized by firefighting specialist Markus Voegler of Station 125 in Calabasas, featured a dozen cars from an array of manufacturers including Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Hyundai.
Dealerships from Calabasas and Thousand Oaks provided the cars so firefighters could “look at the components and get the lay of the land,” Voegler said.
Younger firefighters were also able to practice extrication techniques on a totaled vehicle at the station during the training.
With green vehicles like the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt growing in popularity, they present new and unique challenges to firefighters as they respond to crashes.
“Operationally we approach all the vehicles the same, but the main points on the hybrid and electric vehicles is they have electric power and it is quiet so the vehicles can move without any warning. We may think the vehicle is not turned on, but it is,” Voegler said.
Most firefighters are able to use a smartphone app that guides first responders on how to perform an extrication on a vehicle.
Voegler said having such a variety of vehicles at the fire station was valuable for firefighters to compare the app schematics to the cars. One wrong cut into a high voltage cable could mean electrocution.
"Because they have electric power they have high voltage systems and those high voltage systems are of great concern to us when we start cutting into cars and opening doors up with our jaws of life," Voegler said.
Most of the wiring goes through the center of the vehicle, but each one is designed differently, he said.
"By being able to see each car, and see how those systems are laid out in the vehicles, it kind of keeps us safer as the end result," Voegler said.