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  • Inflatable Curtain Safety Procedures

    With more and more auto manufacturers making the "inflatable curtain" head protection systems available in more vehicle models today, what measures are line officers taking to ensure the safety of their personnel?

    The strike zone fills approximately a twelve-inch space from the roof rail down. This takes up the majority of the work area for the rescue personnel. What safety precautions (other than deactivating the battery) are being taken and techniques used to ensure that the system that did not deploy during the crash will not deploy during the rescue attempts and injure the rescuers?

  • #2
    I have just finished teaching a class on Vehicle Safety and Airbags. There really is not a definate way to disable an undeployed airbag. Waiting for the system to discharge is the only safe way! I have heard of companies teaching to puncture an undeployed bag. Never! I was a Battalion Chief for a progressive Department and I would nevere ask anyone to do that. Especially if I would not. We need to be safe, more now than ever. I have heard that they a company in Germany TRW is making a fully enclosed airbag for the complete passenger area. That scares me. Without constant training and research, we will never know what is coming out next. I attend the yearly car shows to see what's new. I also receive info by e-mail. The systems are coming out so fast, we cannot make procedures to keep up. Just wait and be safe. Remember, we didn't get them into that situation. We can't help from an ambulance. Be safe!

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    • #3
      When I made my original posting, my intention was to open up a forum about extrication techniques that are used to avoid the dangers of the "inflatable curtain" head protection airbags rather than simply disabling the airbag systems by disconnecting the battery. I've heard comments that some departments are doing total roof removals. Does anyone have any comments on this approach or any other extrication techniques that are being used besides disconnecting the battery?

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      • #4
        The biggest thing we are trying to harp is to LOOK before you cut. That thought has been around a long time, but its importance has grown as you point out. Now we are emphasizing that someone use a small pry bar, wonder bar, or spanner wrench to peel the inner plastic trim piece back away from the pillars before the cuts are made. The plastic doesn't have to be removed, but someone needs to visualize the contents of the pillar, so that a pressurized cylinder, seatbelt pretensioner, or some reinforcement member is avoided. If the person doing the looking is not the tool operator, we are also suggesting that the person "peeling and peeking" also mark the pillar with a line using a wide tip felt marker indicating where the cut should be made.

        This same process is now also important for cuts along the roof rail, (for roof flaps) as we will now see pressurized cylinders in the roof rail area as well.

        And its important for the relief cut for the "old" traditional dash roll, as some diagnostic control modules for the ARS systems are being placed in the lower hinge pillar area.

        Stay safe Larry!

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        • #5
          Carl,
          You mentioned we would see pressurized cylinders in the roof rail area. Do you know in what vehicles and systems the roof rail mounted pressure vessels will activate?

          Secondly, do you have information regarding the "bag-in-the-belt" and the newer ARS systems?

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          • #6
            Carl, my "catchy" phrase for what you advocate is Strip before you rip! I have to agree with all that are saying. Systems are developing faster than we can adopt procedures. Also I agree with those post that we DID NOT get them into Trouble, our Job is to get them out of trouble, while we keep ourselves out of trouble too. We still need to open em up (maybe, not as much as we used too) but when we do we only have so many options, so lets keep doing what we need to, but stripem before you ripem, see what the in there and avoid it!

            ------------------
            Rescue is the Art & Science of matching your tools, talents and tricks to needs of our customers!
            Carl D. Avery

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            • #7
              To follow up on your questions Larry, the two sources I have on the "bag-in-the-belt" systems, or "SmartBelts", indicate that they will probably be installed in the back seats first, intended to help children. They inflate 6" wide in 10msecs, and are 1 to 2 years from production automobiles.

              As for the pressurized cannisters in the roof area for inflatable curtains, the design engineers I was talking to indicated that we should find a cannister in the rear window header for the 2002 Cadillac Catera. They are appearing in the roof rail areas of several future SUVs (to speed deployment), but they could not reveal any make or model - yet.

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              • #8
                Visit this site to get an idea of what's out today. http://www.hwysafety.org/vehicle_rat...ide_airbag.htm
                If you see inflatable curtain assume it has a cannister.

                John DuCharme
                MN

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                • #9
                  Sorry about the primative reply. With the new vehicles coming out not being fireman friendly, we (my department)are shying away from total roof removals on vehicles with HPS. If we have to, we pull all plastic away to view it and to see if we can cut at all. With belt pretensioners, we try a modified dash roll, or a complete side out. It also would be great if there was a site that would e-mail updates on vehicles. Again, sorry for the previous reply, but until last week, we did not have an call that involved HPS.

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                  • #10
                    I am not very surprised at the caution of trained personal, but I am surprised at the abandonment of established skills (roof removal), which are in the best interest of the patient, when confronted with problems. Our extrications are never textbook but that is the nature of the beast. We protect ourselves by awareness and education. That's why we have these forums.
                    Occupant protection systems, whether they are air bags, seat belt pretensioners or flip up rollover protection systems, are not rescuer protection systems nor are they rescuer friendly! Window curtains are easily recognizable by insignias on the A,B or C posts and are easily dealt with by exposing and locating, as stated by other postings. Seat belt pretensioners - same thing. Right now they are only located in two placesm - the hump or the B post. Expose and locate.
                    "Know your enemy." I prefer to locate obstacles, deal with them by disabling them, working around them or providing space between them and the patient or rescuers.
                    The fire service historically has been confronted by new obstacles and we must continue to educate ourselves to deal with what is thrown at us by nature and mankind.

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                    • #11
                      My wife and I purchased a 2001 Camery over the weekend. Upon looking in the owners manual I found a diagram showing the location of all the wiring and sensors for the air bags as well as the seatbelts. Now I know time is life in our business and it may look a little funny to others but if comes down to it, I'm pulling the book out and locating these things before I start cutting. If the manufactures are printing these in the owners manuals they should be able to print out copy for us as well or at least make them available to localities such as a county or district for training.
                      One place I find useful is my brothers autobody shop. I stop by about every couple of weeks and poke my head around the cars he has torn apart and ask him were the sensors are located. After all he is the one that puts them back in when it comes time. It also helps me understand what will work and what will not work when the time comes to take that car apart.

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                      • #12
                        "Modified Dash Roll an Alternative for Side Impact Curtains"

                        The above photo is the Modified Dash Roll, which I orginally developed as an alternative technique to be used with side impact curtains. It will by-pass all the SRS components when the inflator is located in the rear-pillar.

                        Follow the URL link for instructions on how to do the technique. The above photo was used to roll the dash when there was a vehicle resting on the hood of the vehicle. I have done this with a 10-wheeler many times, so it has other applications as well, especially rapid intervention.

                        Ron Shaw

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

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