While the automotive industry has developed safety features to reduce injuries for occupants, the ability to perform extrication has become harder for the fire service.

Volvo and Mercedes (Toyota developing) has both side impact curtain and pretensioners. The normal cutting zones for roof and dash displacement will cut or breach the airbag/pretensioner and it's components. The industry clearly states do not cut the airbag or it's components. The cylinder for the Volvo side impact curtain, is mounted in the rear pillar, the airbag follows the interior roof rail to the A-pillar, the anchor runs 3/4 down the A-pillar. The pretensioner gas cylinder (3,000 PSI) is located in the B-pillar extending just above the bottom window sill. My question to the fire service is, if you were to cut any of these components and an injury occurs from an accidental deployment, can we be held liable? Keep in mind that the vehicle manufacturer has a written disclaimer!

When confronted with a side impact curtain, try this modified method of a dash roll out:

Note: Always practice in a drill yard on vehicles of similar construction before in the field.

Setting Up
Assuming that there is only one entrapment which will require a dash displacement.

1) Stablize the vehicle. Unless the extrication requires, leave the doors on. There should be no reason to remove a door if you can open them 90 degrees, door removal can be time consuming.

2) To displace the dash on the patient side, leave the roof intact, cut only the A-pillar at dash level (remove the mirror as needed) then make another cut 2-3 inches above ther first cut. As the dash is rolled or lifted, this cut will allow the stub end of the dash to slide by the remaining A-pillar.

(3)At the bottom of the A-pillar, make a deep cut into the A-pillar at the point where the rocker pannel meets (wield flange).

(4)With the cutters wide open, make a deep cut at the top rail of the front quarter pannel behind the strut mount (just aft of the center of the wheel well), there will be a re-enforced area that your cutters man not cut. On the two vehicles that were tested, we cut on the side closest to the windshield directly after the strut mount. This cut will keep the nose of the vehicle level. As long as there is only one patient, it is not needed to do mirror cuts on both sides of the vehicle. In fact it is more desirable to have the oposite A-pillar intact, it will keep the roof from dropping.

(5)Spreaders or rams man now be used to properly perform the dash displacement. I will be glad to send you a detailed explanation of this procedure with images if you email a request.

This method will work on both the roll and jacking methods on new vehicle construction. The draw back is you do not open up the area for patient access, but you might avoid court costs.

If anyone has performed extrication on a car with a side impact curtain, please tell me your experience. Side impact curtains have had good test results and Autoliv has said that many of the automakers are now developing or concidering them.

Safety with airbags has drawn concern with in the fire service and lead to the development of driver's side frontal airbag restraint devices, I am slowly agreeing with Ron Moore, this is not the way. I am now using a proper safe working distance between the airbags and personnel (5-10-20 inch rule).

The best way to protect emergency personnel is to have a fire department kill swich with a fire service only key that disarms everything including the ignition when inserted. This would be costly to the industry, and resistance would be strong, so perhaps the best way for now is with Ron Moore's VSDS program. I strongly urge you to send your support and ideas to him, if kept simple and listing only information we need at the scene of an incident, it may be easier for the automakers to accept.

Until such time as the industry is willing to work with the fire service, we may have to adjust our procedures almost yearly to keep up with the new safety features, battery locations and other problems.


[This message has been edited by rshaw (edited March 24, 1999).]