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Not only is the metal in this area thick, it also has a round steel bar section in its core. Ironically, in both extrication case studies mentioned earlier, rescuers unknowingly attempted to cut the B-pillar at the point where it is intentionally the thickest and the strongest. The round rebar steel rod is only a little over 12 inches long and begins at the dashboard level and ends at almost the height of the roof rail. In this same middle portion of B-pillar there is also an extra layer of exotic metal steel added to the inside and the outside surfaces to further reinforce and strengthen the pillar.
Many of our current hydraulic cutting/shearing tools have problems coping with these pillars. Our hacksaws, reciprocating saws and air chisels are useless against these exotic metals. Rotary saws with abrasive blades will overpower this metal and cut the pillar but their use isn't practical at extrication scenes.
During roof removal evolutions, the B-pillar must typically be cut through. As an alternative to cutting a Subaru B-pillar, rescuers will be able to make two cuts into the roof rail at the top of the B-pillar forming an inverted "V" cut. This will separate the roof from the top of the pillar allowing the roof to be removed. Another option will be to "flip," "flap" or "flop" the front portion of the roof, making a hinge cut in the roof rail in front of the B-pillar. Remember, the A-pillars and roof rail are of a conventional design and will not offer the resistance that the Subaru B-pillars will.
Besides rescuers preparing options for cutting exotic high-strength, high-tension structural metals, the challenge is out there for our rescue tool manufacturers to create power cutters that can deal with these reinforced pillars. With the federal government pushing for better vehicle side-impact performance and standards to require better roof crush performance developing, we will be seeing more reinforced A-, B-, C- and D-pillars and we will see the increased use of exotic martensite (boron) high-strength, high-tension steels.
Ron Moore, a Firehouse contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer 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.