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Airbag Roof Inflator Safety for Responders

I have mentioned in the seminars I present that the most common location for stored gas airbag inflators for roof airbag systems is on or near the C-post of the vehicle. This information may be right if you look at the just four-door sedan vehicles only.

My friend Jorg Heck, who works for Moditech, the company that creates the Crash Recovery System software, believes that the most common location nowadays is horizontal along the roof-rail, directly above or slightly behind the B-pillar.

Jorg states that one very simple reason for this center location is that the inflator module can directly dump its’ pressurized gas into the airbag without the need for a filler tube. This is therefore a less expensive design to put in a vehicle.

So what does this mean for First Responders? It justifies why we say that we must strip the trim away at each and every point in the structure of a roof when we are performing extrications. Whether you are totally removing the roof or just cutting and flipping part of the roof away from the patient, make sure every cut is clear of the stored gas inflators.

Strip the Trim at Each & Every Cut!

The image below is provided by Mercedes-Benz in their Guidelines for Rescue Services Passenger Cars training manual, 2010 edition. I selected it because this is the model car I personally drive. You can see the stored gas inflator in the pale blue box along the roof rail slightly behind the B-pillar. It’s actually a good location if you are doing total roof removal. It’s right in the way though if you are “flipping” the roof for example.

The other items in this Mercedes safety bulletin are the starter battery(yellow box under hood), airbags(Driver front, driver side, knee bags, and rear passenger side shown), seatbelt pretensioners, (red boxes), fuel tank(pale green/blue by rear tire), and the second battery in the trunk wheel well(yellow box in trunk area). The pale blue/green B-pillar is the Boron steel location for this Mercedes sedan.


About Ron Moore

Ron Moore retired as a Division Chief with the McKinney (TX) Fire Department. He is now employed part-time with the Prosper, TX Fire Rescue and the Plano Fire Rescue. Ron is the author of now over 200 published articles in his renowned University of Extrication series, featured each month in Firehouse Magazine and is the moderator of the University of Extrication interactive section of the Firehouse.com website.