EMS providers responding to the scene of an accident involving a„hybrid vehicle now have online resources for specifics on proper emergency rescue methods. Toyota, Honda and Ford have all published electronic guides designed for emergency response to„hybrid vehicle crashes.
Last year, several major news outlets, including The Associated Press, picked up a story that emergency workers who cut into the door of a„hybrid vehicle are at risk for electrical shock. Toyota, maker of the„hybrid Prius, then issued a May 6, 2004, release that states, "That information is not correct. The power cables carrying electric current are automatically shut down in the case of an accident. Furthermore, power cables are not located near the doors of the vehicle. They are located well outside of any area likely to be accessed by emergency crews." A second Toyota press release from June 22, 2004, points out that high-voltage cables "are painted orange [and] are shrouded in metal."
The Prius emergency response guide gives specific information on immobilizing and disabling the vehicle and extricating patients, including procedures in the event of fire and spills.
The guide maintains that the EMS responder should "Never touch, cut or open any orange high voltage power cable or high voltage component." Once the vehicle is disabled, providers should be aware that power is maintained for 90 seconds in the Supplement Restraint System (SRS) and for five minutes in the high-voltage electrical system.
Honda's emergency response guides for the Insight and the Civic„Hybrid note that in the case of a submerged or partially submerged vehicle, "there is no danger of electric shock from touching the car body or framework." However, the guide recommends using caution when turning off the vehicle in general and offers three methods of safely doing so, from best to least desirable.
Ford has provided its emergency response guide online for the new„hybrid version of the Ford Escape SUV. The guide shows the location of the battery in the rear of the vehicle, indicated by warning decals, and gives precautions for general high-voltage situations.
All four guides indicate that the responder should always assume the vehicle is powered up. Each also stresses the importance of EMS providers following their organization's protocols for assessing potentially hazardous situations, while noting the additional recommendations from the manufacturer.