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Firefighters critically need to understand new vehicle designs

Initially there were a lot of misunderstandings and misinformation about how to identify, and address, vehicles with these systems

I remember being assigned to a heavy rescue company when side curtain airbags were a “new” safety enhancement.

Initially there were a lot of misunderstandings and misinformation about how to identify, and address, vehicles with these systems.

Now that this equipment is standard and firefighters have become familiar, and trained, it’s not a big deal.

I’m sure that will someday be the case with hybrid and electric vehicles, but for now, it’s critically important that we better understand these new technologies and their impact on contemporary vehicle extrication and firefighting techniques.

Adam K. Thiel is the fire commissioner and director of the Office of Emergency Management in the city of Philadelphia. Thiel previously served as a fire chief in the National Capital Region and as a state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thiel’s operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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