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The Investigators
We uncover potential delay for firefighters with a new high tech car
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If you're in a car accident, you want  rescue workers to get you out quickly.


But, local firefighters are concerned changing technology could cause a dangerous delay.


Hybrid cars mean cleaner air and less dependency on gas, but they also present new dangers for rescue workers and victims at accident scenes.

Every second counts in serious accidents like on recently in Cranston.


With people trapped inside rescue crews work quickly to cut the vehicle open and free the victims.It's dangerous work, but now rescue workers face an even greater danger because of hybrid vehicles.

"It's a dangerous situation in the fire service, we have to stop and look and become familiar with the material you're dealing with and now these new vehicles are just one more item."


High voltage cables and powerful battery packs mean crews cannot approach hybrids the same way they deal with conventional gasoline powered vehicles.

"In the event of a collision this vehicle is designed to shut itself down."

But is that a guarantee?

"There are no guarantees, absolutely not."

So rescue crews need to learn how to shut the system down and which cables to avoid- that's why T oyota 's Alex Darling brought his Prius to the C ranston fire station.The first thing he pointed out was that while the car is on and ready to go, the motor is not running.

"So if you come upon one of these and don't hear the engine running do not make the assumption that the vehicle has been powered down."

I t's also important to stay away from all the orange cables- they carry the high-voltage, and crews must remember that the battery pack is in the car's trunk.

"If you have to get someone out of the car and the battery's on fire you need to get a hose on it and use a lot of water- copious amounts of water."

"Another problem is that all hybrid vehicles are not created equally. That means a rescue in a Toyota Prius requires a different kind of attack than, say, with a Honda Insight."

D eputy Chief McKenna tells me his department is trying to keep up with the changing technologies, but without an industry standard, and so many different hybrids entering the market, it could cost rescue crews precious moments at an accident scene.

"It will take us a couple of seconds longer, the vehicles are new to us, not easily recognizable on the road, so yes, it could slow us down.

McKenna says the Prius is the first hybrid his department has seen first hand. For the most part, Cranston, as well as other fire departments across the country, have just been studying manuals on the different vehicles and hoping they recognize the hybrids when they seen them.

"As a training officer and someone who has to relay information to other firefighters it's quite important I get to see it."

Toyota says it can't build the cars fast enough to meet the demand. That means hybrid vehicles are no longer considered a fad, and the training is now a necessary part of the job for rescue crews.


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