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Unlocking vehicles with slim jims

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  • Unlocking vehicles with slim jims

    My department like many has responded to many public service calls in which the crew unlocks a "customer's" (just met Chief Brunacini) keys from a running/parked motor vehicle with a slim jim or other slide type tool. We have also heard the urban legend of the of the police officer who was killed when the air bag deployed while opening a car door.
    My question is given all of the design changes and the addition of side impact bags, is it possible for a person using a slim jim to cut the wires to the air bag and render it inoperable. Our local police department has completely discontinued the practice of unlocking vehicles in response to these claims thus increasing our responses to these types of alarm.

  • #2
    I dont know About the airbags. But Our dept Stopped unlocking cars due to the Liability issue. ie: not being able to ID the owner/potential damage to the locks. We will only do it now if a child is involved.

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    • #3
      Yes you can disconnect the door air bags with a slim jim or other tools. If you do unlock a door with this method you should have the owner take the vehicle to the dealer & have them look to see if you have disconnected the air bag.
      I would only unlock a door with this method if a small child or the person was non responsive.
      1F/F opinion
      Thank you
      Jim

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      • #4
        I have read the posts on this subject, and I amazed to read what I have so far.

        I have been known to have a "not so smooth" or politically incorrect way of handling things, so with that in mind I will offer my opinion on the subject.

        A child locked in the car... are they in trouble medically (heat etc)or is it just that the parents inadvertantly left the kids unattended, with the keys in the ignition while they pumped gas? Medical problem... through the glass and take care of situation. Jim you surprise me on your post regarding the "unresponsive person"... no question there... through the glass. If the car was on fire, would you try to "slim jim" the door?? I hope not, so why would we try that in a life hazard or medical situation??

        Almost everyone has glass coverage on the insurance policy... time to use it!

        Opening locked doors is not our job, it's a locksmith job. Why don't most PD do it anymore... LIABILITY! The SOB who locked the keys in the BMW, will be the first to file a claim when you destroyed the locking mechanism in the door.

        Our rescue has two 10 ton winches (F&R), and A-frame and an extending rear boom... should we be in the wrecker business?? We have a coffee pot on the truck, should we serve coffee to the folks as they pass by??

        My point is... the locked door situation is a locksmith problem (or ONSTAR), UNLESS there is a medical need, then "bye bye window".

        Maybe not smooth, or P.C. but I told you upfront of the potential.

        Kevin Romer

        ------------------
        Kevin Romer
        "Performance is Everything!!"


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        • #5
          May the Slim Jim Hoax R.I.P.

          From the auto makers to the federal government, there has been no accident deaths or injuries while using a Slim Jim type tool to unlock a door that has SIP.

          Ron Moore at the 1999 Expo stated however that it may be possible to detatch the ingition wire to the inflator/gas generator unit.

          Ron himself has done extensive research on this matter. I have tried to contact a department that one incident reportably happened. There was no contact from the telephone number given on the Police Telex that was given to me. Ron also had the same luck as well as NHTSA. I have an offical government finding that states that the tool can not cause the user to be injured while trying to open a door with SIP.

          So rest easy, you will not get impaled with the tool if your department uses it. But to be safe, I would inform the owner to have the airbag system checked out if so equipped.


          ------------------
          Ron Shaw
          http://www.extrication.com

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          • #6
            Romer,
            We may not see eye to eye on gloves but I am with you on this one.
            To every one else that reads this post, take heed, Romer has hit the nail right on the head.
            I dont know how the big city boys do things, but I am a member of a small volunteer dept. and I think you would be hard pressed to find a vol. that would abandon his lazy-boy for a simple lock out. If there were a life at stake(big or small) it would be a different story, and I can say from experience it would most definitely be "THREW THE WINDOW WE GO".

            Sorry no warning
            Just my thoughts
            Rick

            ------------------
            NVFD933
            [email protected]

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            • #7
              My Opinion:

              Fire & Rescue departments should not be opening doors for persons who locked themselves out. Let the locksmiths make the money that they should.

              Many police departments no longer provide this service and rightly so. I dont know much about the airbag deployment, however there is a good possibility of damaging the power door locks & power windows.

              I do believe however, that, in an emergency situation, such as child locked in vehicle, should be handled in the quickest way possible, whether that be police, fire-rescue or local locksmith.

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              • #8
                My hat is off to the departments that don't open locked doors like we continue to do. We are using a different technique for electric locks that has worked quite well for us and causes no discernable damage. Take a 5' tensioning bar such is used on the end of chain link fencing, wedge the corner of the vehicle door open and insert the bar (may have to bend to a particular shape) into the vehicle and hit the electric door locks or window switch. This allows you to completely by-pass tearing up wires.

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                • #9
                  Here if a child locks his parent out of the car we call a local locksmith who will come to the scene and open the door. Naturally if the child is in distress you can kiss the glass good-by !

                  p.s. Always check the other doors! This actually happened to me. )

                  Be safe

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                  • #10
                    According to the dealers, mechanics and locksmiths I have talked to, it is indeed possible to damage to wiring to door mounted airbags. It is also very easy to damage electric door locks, electric windows, power mirrors, etc... Due to liability concerns and complaints from locksmiths, our department no longer responds to lockouts where there is no danger to persons (unless its a fellow firefighter or brother law enforcement member who understands that damaged door components are their own responsibility). In case of danger to persons, it's through the window. Around here, if there is a child locked in and is not in danger, the local Pop-a-lock franchise will respond free of charge. It might be of benefit to some departments to try to obtain an agreement with the local locksmith to do the same in exchange for the agreement to advise nuisance type callers that only in case of danger to life or limb does the Fire Department respond. This type of program can result in lots of favorable P.R. for the locksmith and if there is more than one, they may compete for the opportunity to partcipate. Capt. Dan

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                    • #11
                      I seem to be in the minority but we do car lockouts for people with kids or animals in the car.Like anything else in the fire service you need the proper training and tools,The slim-Jim is pretty much obsolete but there are many good tools for the job.As to the liability you can be sued for ANYTHING ,get a good release form,good tools and good training.I know some of the armchair lawyers wil tell you release forms are no good but get one anyway.We do lockouts and the public really appreciates the service,In20 yrs we have only damaged 2 cars with no complaints.Remember the word SERVICE in FIRE SERVICE.If you would like any additional info give me a call.

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                      • #12
                        A technique that works on some vehicles was shown to me at an extrication class in March 2000. If you have a window that is only held in by a rubber gasket as opposed to being glued in with heavy mastic, you can cut the gasket with a sharp knife completely around the window and then the window will pry out easily without breaking. Then the repair only requires a new gasket and some labor.

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                        • #13
                          You can always check the "air bag dash light" after unlocking the door. If wires are damaged, the dash light should stay on after the ignition is turned on.
                          Of course that opens another Pandora's Box as to possibly deploying the bag if the wires were damaged enough to short the system. Maybe, turn the key from the opposite side of the door in question.
                          We could go 'round and 'round and 'round...

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                          • #14
                            I believe that leaving a child under a certain age alone in a car is illegal in Texas. I do not know the age. I believe that if the person is stupid enough to break that law they should have a reminder in the form of a window replacement even if the child is not in distress. Otherwise call a locksmith or tow company that will unlock the door. Sometimes the insurance will pay for the unlocking.

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                            • #15
                              Kevin and I do not always see eye to eye either, However we do agree on a lot of things and this is ONE of them! And this comes from a guy that has locked his keys in the car. AAA has responded quickly and performed the service.We are a RESCUE Service and should respond and act accordingly. Even in accordance with the ideas of Mr. Bruninci (SP?) Customer service is responding to the needs of the Customers in RESCUE situations, and not providing services that other more appropaite agencies can and should provide. If it is a RESCUE, break the Glass and save your patient.

                              ------------------
                              Carl D. Avery

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