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Subject: Fire Apparatus Rollover Protection
Topic: RollTek Rollover Protection System
Objective: Identify the components of a RollTek Rollover Protection System available on fire apparatus and describe its basic operation.
Task: Given a fire apparatus with a RollTek Rollover Protection System installed, explain how the side-mounted deployable airbags, seatbelt system pretensioners, and special air suspension driver’s seat function in a fire apparatus rollover crash.
As a fire department safety officer, I strive to follow current events from the fire service across the United States. I’m always looking for experiences that other departments have had that I can apply to our department’s safety efforts and our training program. From a safety standpoint, there are always lessons to be learned from both good and bad experiences, but for me, the line-of-duty deaths always have a special significance.
Recent U.S. Fire Administration statistics caught my eye regarding the fact that nearly 20-25% of all accidental deaths experienced each year in the fire service are related to vehicles. After looking into this one aspect of our occupational safety, I found that cases involving water tenders (known as tankers in non-NIMS departments) are the most prevalent of these motor vehicle incidents.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that during the period 1977-1999, 73 deaths occurred in 63 crashes involving tenders. Of those deaths, 54 occurred in 49 separate crashes in which tenders rolled over (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hid14.html).
A neighboring fire department recently had its engine crash on a rainy night when the right-side tires went off the edge of the paved road. As the driver steered to correct, the engine went into a skid, rolled and slid onto its officer’s side. Because everyone was seated and belted, the injuries were minor. I saw the rig the next day and it was totaled with lots of damage to the cab. It got me thinking about how protected we are or aren’t as we ride inside our fire apparatus. It also got me thinking about riding seated and belted all the time…no exceptions!
The New Technology
I was surprised and impressed to find a manufacturer out there who was looking into a new technology that can help save our lives in fire apparatus rollover crashes. IMMI, an Indiana-based company, is the only company in the world to manufacture a fire apparatus occupant rollover protection system. IMMI’s RollTek Rollover Protection System uses specially designed deployable airbags installed along each side of the cab’s roofline or along its sidewall area in the crew compartment. There can be as many as six airbags; each designed to deploy across a side window area to protect the occupants in both front seats as well as those in the four possible outboard seat positions in the crew cab area. This combination of deployable RollTek airbags increases the safety and survivability of the crew. In addition, a unique seatbelt pretensioner system snugs the lap-shoulder belt assembly worn by the occupants allowing those individuals to remain securely within their primary restraint system. The special RollTek air suspension seat for the driver and officer has a safety component that lowers it down to a locked position during a rollover crash. This places the occupant in a more protected position within the cab during the rollover collision.
The RollTek system was first utilized by Pierce Manufacturing and marketed as its Side Rollover Protection system in the Pierce Quantum, Lance, Dash, Enforcer and Arrow XT fire apparatus. The system is currently also being utilized by Ferrara (Igniter and Inferno) and KME (Predator). It is anticipated that the RollTek Rollover Protection System will be available in commercial vehicles such as large over-the-road trucks in the near future.
Components and Operation