University of Extrication: High-Intensity-Discharge (HID) Headlights

SUBJECT: Electrical Hazards at Vehicle Rescue Incidents TOPIC: High-Intensity-Discharge (HID) Headlights OBJECTIVE: Understand the design and operation of HID headlights and appropriate responder actions to complete when working near these...


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• The vehicle’s electrical system would have to be completely functional after the collision

• The HID headlight switch and headlight electrical circuit would have to be intact after the crash

• The HID headlight would have to be still illuminated; headlight ON

• The outer protective cover of the headlight unit would have to be broken away almost completely; large enough for a rescuer’s hand to be placed inside the headlight housing assembly itself

• The thick, glass lens that focuses the headlight’s beam and its mounting bracket inside the HID unit would have to be displaced or torn off sufficiently enough that the small, xenon bulb would be accessible

• The glass cover of the sealed bulb would have to be broken away, but the two thin electrodes would have to still be intact and gapped properly

• The rescuer would have to have a bare hand – no glove on – in order to fit into this small space

• The rescuer would have to stick a hand directly into the broken, but still illuminated HID headlight far enough that a finger touches the end of the electrodes while it is energized

After all this, yes, a person could be shocked enough to cause injury or death. But what is the likelihood of this happening? If the headlight is OFF or if the vehicle’s 12-volt electrical system is shut down, there will be no hazard.

Study the construction of a typical HID unit and decide for yourself how hazardous you feel that HID units are. By understanding how HID headlights are designed and function, rescuers can develop safety protocols for working with a vehicle that has HID headlights and the degree of risk can be put into proper perspective along with other hazards and risks that can be present at a crash scene.

 

TASK: Given the scenario of a vehicle collision with injuries, explain procedures for responders to complete to eliminate the electrical hazard risk presented by high-intensity-discharge headlights.

 

Ron Moore, a Firehouse® contributing editor, retired as training chief for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com “MembersZone” and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.