Volvo XC 90: Dual Roof Airbag System

Nov. 1, 2007

SUBJECT: Volvo XC 90

TOPIC: Dual Roof Airbag System

OBJECTIVE: Given a scenario involving a Volvo XC 90 vehicle collision, the rescuer will develop department procedures for dealing with the dual roof airbag system on the XC 90.

TASK: The rescuer shall explain procedures for locating the four stored gas inflator units of the XC 90's roof airbag system and how the presence of the roof airbag systems influence departmental procedures at an extrication scene.

This University of Extrication column looks at the Volvo XC 90, a unique vehicle, from a rescuer's perspective. This vehicle is a popular car-based SUV with seating for up to seven. The XC 90 has an extensive list of safety measures to protect occupants, making it one of the safest SUVs on the market.

The XC 90 pioneered Roll Stability Control, a technology that uses a gyro sensor to identify a potential rollover situation that activates the stability control system to try to avert it. The 2007 model-year XC 90 comes with a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) that monitors images from a pair of cameras mounted in the side mirrors and warns the driver via an indicator light when another vehicle moves into the XC 90's blind spot. The roof of the XC 90 is composed of boron steel, which Volvo advises is four times stronger than conventional steel. Anti-whiplash seats and an emergency communications system are also some of the safety features designed into the vehicle.

Airbag systems on the XC 90 include dual frontal airbags, front occupant seat-mounted side airbags and roof airbags. The roof airbags, labeled as the "IC Airbag," are designed to protect occupants in the front-, middle- and third-row seats rather than just covering the first two rows of seats as found in many SUVs. They deploy in a side collision as well as when the Volvo goes into a rollover crash.

What is worthy of note for rescue and extrication personnel is that there are four separate roof airbag systems on the XC 90; two separate roof airbags on each side of the vehicle. The larger one deploys to protect the front- and middle-seat occupants. The second separate airbag system deploys solely to protect the occupants in the third row of seats at the rear of the vehicle.

Inside a new-car showroom at a Volvo dealership on the outskirts of San Francisco is an XC 90 displayed as what automotive engineers call a "Body in White." This Body in White display has been specially designed to feature the structural elements of the Volvo as well as the safety equipment. Because it is stripped of items such as upholstery, interior trim, wiring and insulation, all the components of the XC 90 that are important to rescue and extrication personnel are visible.

By studying this special Volvo display, it becomes evident that the XC 90 has four separate roof airbags; two per side. And because the headliner and trim are completely missing, it is easy to see the exact location of the two stored gas inflator units on each side of the XC 90's roof structure. One inflator unit deploys the larger two-row roof airbag. The second inflator on the same side of the vehicle deploys the much smaller roof airbag; the one that protects the third-row seat occupant. The inflator units are pressurized to 4,000 psi with a mixture of argon and helium gas.

For incidents involving an XC 90, rescue personnel must first be aware that there are four separate roof airbag systems. That in and of itself is worthy of note. If personnel subscribe to the policy of "stripping the trim" before cutting a roof, the presence of one and hopefully both stored gas inflators would be discovered.

TASK: The rescuer shall explain procedures for locating the four stored gas inflator units of the XC 90's roof airbag system and how a total roof removal evolution would be completed.

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 "MembersZone" and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the website. Moore can be contacted directly at [email protected].

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