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"Up on red...Down on blue" are commands that should be familiar for rescue teams who are experienced with rescue airbags. Do not use commands that mention the "top bag," the "big bag" or anything other than the color of the hose connected to the airbag. Also some control units have colored levers to control air flow to or from the airbags. Do not connect a supply hose to the control unit of your system that is the same color as an inflate or deflate lever on the controller. The operator could make a mistake and operate the wrong lever when a color is called for that is the same color as the control lever.
"Bottom-First" Inflation Sequence
The procedure for inflating rescue airbags is important to the success and degree of safety of the lift. When deploying a two-bag stack for example, the recommendation is that the bottom or base bag be inflated partially first. This bag settles into the ground or cribbing beneath it and forms the foundation of the lifting stack. The bottom bag should initially be inflated no more than necessary to allow it to settle; maybe 25% inflation or less for now.
With the base bag set, the top bag can then begin to be inflated. As this bag expands, it will contact the load. As contact is made, personnel must assure that both the top contact point of the top bag and the bottom contact point of the bottom bag are acceptable. If they are, then you can proceed. If something isn't right, then adjustments can still be made relatively quickly at this early point in the lift.
With the top and bottom contact points all set, rescuers can continue to alternate inflation of the bottom and top bags to accomplish the lift. Pay close attention to the "nesting" of the two bags where they contact each other. Inflating the bottom bag to only 50% is a good intermediate stopping point for that bag. Inflation of the top bag to near 75% can follow next. The harder and rounder surface of the top bag should bond well into the softer and flatter surface of the bottom bag. This is called "nesting" of the airbags and is a good thing.
As the lift proceeds and you alternate between inflation of the bags, you want to have the top bag inflated more fully than the bottom bag to preserve the softer and more stable base. As more height is required and both bags go over 80% of their inflation height, your stack is now like trying to balance two basketballs on top of each other. This is risky for both you and the victim. In lieu of working with this balancing act, hold the lift, crib, deflate the bags, raise the stacked bags up, and lift again. With airbags, hard and round might not always be good thing!
Anytime an airbag is used to lift a load, rescuers must monitor the potential for "rolling" of either the lifted load or the airbag, especially when bags are stacked.
If a load shift occurs or if the airbag starts to roll out from under the load, it is most likely to come out in a line parallel to the bag. In other words, the danger zone during any airbag lift is the area directly in line with the bag. The area should be kept clear. Unfortunately, many rescuers responsible for running the airbag controller position themselves right in this area to "get good view" of what is happening. Well, you have long hoses, so move out of the way!
A critical safety assignment to put in place during an airbag lift is to assign two "safety spotters" to view the lift. Most important though is the fact that the spotters must be looking at the lifted object and the airbags from two different angles. They have to be monitoring airbag or object movement from vantage points that are perpendicular to each other. By being at a 90-degree angle from each other, they are more likely to see any unwanted load shift or airbag rolling.
No High-Pressure "Blow-offs"
Shutdown procedures for your airbag system should be learned so that the system is disassembled without disconnecting a hose or connection under high-pressure. High-pressure disconnects are unsafe, present an unnecessary danger to personnel and are avoidable. Shut off the high-pressure air source first. Operate the deflate levers to assure that pressure is released throughout the entire system. Disconnect hoses or couplings only after all the residual air has been released. No high-pressure "blow-offs" is the safety rule.
TASK: Given a heavy object, the rescue team shall lift and stabilize the object utilizing cribbing blocks, wood timbers and high-pressure airbags.