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Anyone Heard of This One???

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  • Anyone Heard of This One???

    Received this question from a firefighter in Montana.

    "As far as you know, is there any substance to the rumor that a fireman was (relatively recently?) severly injured by a "hazardous material" in the door of a BMW automobile while responding to an accident?

    My Reply-
    This is a new one on me and my gut reaction is that this either is not exactly what happened or this is a new urban legend.

    BMW vehicles do have side impact airbags mounted within their doors. The airbag unit is a metal box just a little smaller in size than a cigar box. The airbag is there and so is the airbag inflator module. The inflator module is a stored gas, pressurized cylinder of argon and helium.

    I can't think of why anyone would call this a hazardous material; its an airbag!

    This whole story sounds a lot like the earlier hoax that was circulating regarding a slim jim door unlocking device deploying on a cop while trying to unlock the door. That hoax said that the slim jim launched into the guys throat. Nice try.

    Anyone else out there heard of this or anything like it?

    Ron Moore
    Fire Training Manager
    Plano (TX) Fire Rescue
    (214) 728-6776
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator

  • #2
    Some cars in their side deploy curtains use blackpowder with a pressure activated crush sensor. The sensor detonates the powder charge sending the pressurizedair through tubes to the curtain in the ceiling which releases the curtain.

    Rescue technician handbook
    University of Maryland
    Grant Davis


    • #3
      Is Argon considered a HazMat? That would be the only thingI could possibly see as being construed as a HazMat situation. Besides of course cutting into a cylinder and it becoming a fragmentation grenade. If I am wrong please correct me if I am wrong. Ever since they started making vehicles boobie traps for us rescuers,Ifeel a bit lost.
      Your Brother In The Service,
      Rob Herpel

      "I have but ONE ambition in life....that is to be a firefighter"


      • #4
        Being that I used to work I an Auto Parts store you hear alot of things.

        One thing that caught my attention was the growing number of crooked airbag repair folks.

        Now this is true:
        A woman was involved in an MVA at around 45mph. Head on luckily she was belted.
        No airbags deployed. When she had the car inspected her drivers side airbag was NOT there. Upon further investigation on Carfax, it showed her car had previoulsy been wrecked and repaired, hmmmm, what happened to the replacement airbag. It has also been proven that people are stuffing airbag compartments with Beer cans, screws, bolts, and anything else they can fit. So to us as rescuers it's obvious if for some reason that airbag that is now a garbage can deploys
        what will happen.

        Not sure if you ever heard of this but next time you are in an Advance Auto check out the TVs good information on new vehicles such as hybrids an the airbag thing.

        Just a heads up, Stay Safe
        Proud to be IACOJ Illinois Chapter--Deemed "Crustworthy" Jan, 2003


        • #5
          Argon is an inert gas and would not present as a HAZMAT incident unless , as stated, as a pressure vessel problem or possibly O2 diplacement in a confined space, another place you'll see it often is in welding shops as it is used as a shield gas in MIG welding. Now a question.. Black powder as in old style gunpowder ? now I am worrried about airbags
          Chris Daniel


          • #6
            Originally posted by vogelfuer:
            <STRONG>Some cars in their side deploy curtains use blackpowder with a pressure activated crush sensor.

            Rescue technician handbook
            University of Maryland</STRONG>
            I never heard about the use of black powder in airbag technology. Side Impact Curtains are a relativly new development, as far as I know they are all deployed by the new hybrid gas-generators. I also don't know any mechanically fired head impact curtain, I think they are all controlled by the airbag-computer.

            Of course, I also don't know every new car form all car manufactures, but I can proof my statement for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Toyota, Opel (GM), Ford and others.
            Jorg Heck
            Airbag&Co, Germany/Austria


            • #7
              We had a run involving a 2001 Volvo S60. The curtains had not deployed. We were looking at the cylinder located in the "C"post. On the side of the cylinder it indicated that it contained "3 grains of explosive". It did not indicated what type of explosive. More food for thought.


              • #8
                A Posting From Forum Moderator Ron Moore

                I doubt that this Montana story is anything more than a new 'Urban legend'.

                I did do some research on argon, one of the gases that is commonly used to fill side-impact, roof-mounted airbags when they deploy.

                Argon is the third most prevalent gas in the earth's atmosphere. Argon is colorless and odorless.

                Argon is produced commercially by the distillation of liquid air. Besides its' new use for airbags, it is used in large quantities to fill electric light bulbs.

                The "3 grams of explosive" reported in one of the posts would be what burns inside the stored gas airbag inflator module. As the 95% argon and 5% helium gas mixture inside the pressurized cylinder is released, the gases are warmed to get better expansion into the airbag. Warming is done by passing the gas through a 'fire' chamber. Something burns inside this chamber. A small amount of ethanol fuel is ignited in the gas-hybrid inflator design.

                Ron Moore
                Ron Moore, Forum Moderator


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