Is It Time to Change Our Training Yet? Part 1: Airbag Explosions
Lee Junkins, Midsouth Rescue Technologies
Most of this type was used in the earlier single stage driver’s frontal airbags.
2. Most of the later inflators have a steel housing mounted much the same as the aluminum ones. In looking over many burnt vehicles, in the wrecking yards, I have found that all of the steering wheels that are missing the inflator, have either burnt completely and the inflator was laying in the floor, or the threads in the bolt holes of the center hub are stripped, which leads me to believe that the aluminum steering wheel hub must get hot enough to expand and weaken the grip of the threads around the bolts, allowing them to strip out when the azide ignites.
As you can begin to see, new technology has greatly increased the hazards of vehicle fires, since the last time our training was updated. Today we have vehicles in the US that are equipped with as high as 12 airbags in one vehicle and these 12 can be in 16 different locations, depending on the make and model. Other countries have as high as 22 airbags in one vehicle and some of these systems will be introduced in the US in the near future. As bad as they look, as we progress through this series, you will find that airbags are a very small part of the hazards that new technology presents us with in fighting today’s vehicle fires. Once we have seen the hazards we are facing, we will take a look at a new aggressive attack in which we can mark 33 danger zones on one vehicle and never put a firefighter in harms way.
In part 2 of this series we will take a look at the dangers of compressed gas struts, which are used to support hoods, trunk lids, hatch backs, camper top windows, and even third row seats.
Lee Junkins joined the fire service in February 1964 at the age of 18. He is currently a certified NREMT, and certified tech in Rope Rescue, Trench Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, and Auto Extrication. He holds Advanced Firefighter Certification, Level II Instructor, and Certification Coordinator, certificates with the Texas State Fireman’s and Fire Marshals’ Association. He is a member of the National Fire Academy Alumni, with courses such as Challenges for Training Officers, and Public Education Leadership.