A question from a Colorado fire officer allows me the opportunity to mention a trend in vehicle airbag designs, directional airbag deployment. The question that got me thinking was "I have an airbag from a junk car that I would like to discharge. Any recommendations on how to do this safely?"

I deploy airbags at every hands-on class I teach. There always seems to be at least one junker with an undeployed bag or two. I hot wire them before the class and make a nice demonstration out of it at the start of the training.

What I DO NOT ever do is fire off an unmounted airbag. You know the 'lay it in the parking lot' technique. It's a high risk maneuver now and you place your students and yourself at risk.

You have to really be careful with airbag deployment of an unmounted airbag. It used to be that they just deployed straight out. Now they can be essentially designed with a 'shaped' or directional charge. Using nylon tether straps inside the airbag, manufacturers can get the bag to be a directional deployment because of how it is located in the actual vehicle. When deployed unmounted at a training class, the bag laying on the ground might go off to the left or right and not actually go upward like you expect. A person observing the deployment in your class could be struck by this flying chunk of metal and that's not worth it.

Other than remounting an airbag back in the vehicle and then deploying it, I strongly recommend you secure it into some sort of mount to hold the inflator module steady. That way, just the airbag will deploy and the inflator will not go flying off in some unexpected direction.

Once mounted, all you need to do is touch more than 7volts to the two thin wires coming out of the inflator unit.