Has any single part of our business changed more over the past five years than the art of auto extrication? Remember the days when the cars on the road were made primarily of steel. When only the high-end models had air bags and even those were limited in number and location.
Now cars are made of hybrid metals that weigh less than the traditional steel and are so strong that in a number of instances our tools cannot even cut it. Every car on the road has a minimal number of air bags and many have them located throughout the car to encompass both the front seat and back seat passengers.
Although their popularity and prominence in the market place and on the roads only surged a few years ago, electric cars have been in the market place for over 10 years. When electric cars were introduced, they were often too expensive for the middle class and traditional fuels were still more attractive alternative.
However, as the price of gasoline continued to increase, our appetite for greener vehicles grew. There are now many different models of hybrid vehicles and nearly every manufacturer has at least one in their fleet.
The dangers of auto extrication are very different today. We used to worry about fire, a bumper shooting off the vehicle, or a gas-pressured cylinder in a hatchback darting off like an arrow. These hazards still exist, but now we must also be aware of air bags, high strength steel, and electric battery powered vehicles.
Training has never been more important. There is a great deal of misinformation regarding air bags and the batteries in electric cars. Congress had the forethought to pass regulations that push the auto industry into producing hybrid vehicles. Unfortunately, they did not have the foresight to think about training the first responders that would have to work in and around these vehicles after they were compromised.
Although working on vehicles at the local salvage yard is still an effective means for maintaining basic skills when working with the extrication and stabilization equipment, most of the vehicles will not have the materials or components that are found in the newer hybrid vehicles.
Talk to your local technical college and car dealerships to see if they have any programs available to help you better understand how these vehicles work. Communicate your needs to the area tow truck services. Let them know you would appreciate a call if they are taking a hybrid vehicle to an area salvage yard. Also, talk to the local salvage yards and inform them that you would like to work on this type of vehicle and would appreciate a call if they get one in.
You may need to make sudden changes to your training schedule, but the opportunity to tear one of these vehicles apart should not be passed up. The ability to work on them at your pace as opposed to the urgency that we face on the roadway is a rare learning opportunity.
It should go without saying, but please remember to thank those that help you secure these vehicles for training. They have no obligation to help you and often do so at their own expense and inconvenience.